A northern Australian court on Monday ordered the extradition of a firebrand preacher deported from the Philippines and four other suspected jihadists to Melbourne to face a federal charge for planning to head to Syria to fight for ISIS.
Philippine authorities said Robert Cerantonio, also known as Musa Cerantonio, was deported in 2014 because of his suspected links to terrorists.
The Cairns Magistrates Court ordered the extradition of Cerantonio and his four co-accused – Shayden Thorne, Kadir Kaya, Antonio Grenata and Paul Dacre – from Queensland State to their hometown of Melbourne to face a federal charge outlawing Australian foreign fighters.
Entering or preparing to enter a foreign country to engage in hostile activity is a crime in Australia punishable by life imprisonment.
Police allege that the defendants, aged between 21 and 33, towed a half-cabin fiberglass power boat with a car 3,100 kilometers (1,900 miles) from Melbourne to Laura in Australia’s tropical north before they were arrested last Tuesday.
Police say they planned to travel by boat through Indonesia to the Philippines. But they did not specify how they allegedly planned to get from the Philippines to Syria.
All had their passports canceled to prevent them leaving the country to fight for extremist groups such as ISIS.
“The primary focus of the investigation is (and) has been to prevent the crime of foreign incursion,” Attorney-General for Australia George Brandis said on Sunday.
“That is the crime that is committed when people travel from Australia to participate in a civil war or terrorist war fighting overseas, as it will be alleged these five men were preparing to do,” he said.
Philippine authorities said Cerantonio was deported in 2014 for being an “undocumented foreign national” after the Australian government canceled his passport. He was arrested two weeks earlier in the Philippines’ central Cebu province’s Lapu-Lapu city but faced no formal charges.
Philippine police alleged Cerantonio had called for jihad on YouTube and lectured Filipino Muslims to support ISIS.
Australian police said at the time that Cerantonio’s social media postings were “offensive and disturbing,” but did not violate Australia’s law.
Authorities allege Cerantonio bought the boat in the first suspected attempt by would-be foreign fighters to leave Australia by sea.
Security officials estimate 110 Australians are fighting ISIS in the Middle East.