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A notorious terror cell leader jailed over a plot to bomb Melbourne landmarks has won a High Court bid to have his citizenship reinstated after it was cancelled by former home affairs minister Peter Dutton.
Abdul Nacer Benbrika spent 18 years in custody for his role in an extremist group that spoke of unleashing violent jihad on Crown Casino and the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Terror plotter Abdul Nacer Benbrika has won a High Court bid to retain his Australian citizenship.Credit: ABC
Originally due to be released from a 15-year prison sentence in November 2020, Benbrika was kept in detention for another three years following an application by Dutton, who also cancelled his citizenship under a provision of the Citizenship Act.
That term of detention is expected to expire this month.
Benbrika’s legal team challenged the validity of the legislation, resulting in Australia’s highest court issuing a majority judgment in favour of the jihadist, on the basis that the relevant section of the act conflicted with the Constitution.
According to a summary of the judgment published by the court, criminal conduct can only be punished by the judiciary, and not the government, due the separation of powers.
The Australian citizenship of Abdul Nacer Benbrika was cancelled by Peter Dutton when he was home affairs minister.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
Algerian-born Benbrika was arrested in counter-terror raid in 2005. In 2008 he was convicted of being a member of a Melbourne-based terror organisation and telling his followers, who swore an oath of allegiance to him, that they were under a religious duty to pursue violent jihad against non-believers.
Sentencing him in 2009, Victorian Supreme Court judge Bernard Bongiorno said that although the word jihad had many meanings in Islam, Benbrika used the term only to mean a violent attack by his group to advance the Islamic cause.
He said Benbrika had admired Osama bin Laden and believed that killing people, and destroying buildings was justified as it would pressure the Australian government to withdraw troops from Iraq and pull out of the American alliance.
Benbrika previously claimed that in about 2014 he read the work of an Islamic scholar that allowed him to put aside the pursuit of jihad in Australia.
But in extending his time in custody in 2020, Victorian Supreme Court judge Andrew Tinney described the change of heart as a fabrication.
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