CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Australia on Monday restricted the movement of a terror suspect whose conviction was struck down earlier this month, applying tough new laws adopted in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Joseph Thomas, a 32-year-old Muslim convert, was convicted in February of accepting $3,500 and a plane ticket to Australia from an al-Qaida agent in Pakistan and having a false passport.
He was sentenced to five years in prison by Victoria state’s high court, becoming the first person imprisoned under the new anti-terrorism laws, which took effect in December.
But he was freed this month when an appeal court ruled that some of the evidence that convicted him was inadmissible, including the record of an interview conducted by Australian police while Thomas was in a Pakistani jail.
However the government continues to regard him as a terrorist threat, and Monday’s order subjects Thomas to dusk-to-dawn curfew and requires him to stay in the state capital Melbourne, said a spokesman for the federal attorney-general.
It was the first time Australia restricted the movements of a suspect under the controversial laws, which are designed to address the risk of homegrown terrorism but have been criticized by civil rights advocates.
“It is an interim order until there is a court hearing on Sept. 1,” spokesman Michael Pelly said.
Thomas’ lawyer Rob Stary said his client would challenge the order in court.
Thomas, dubbed “Jihad Jack” by the Australian media, was taking a beach vacation in eastern Victoria with his young family when police served the order, his brother said.
“He was slapped with a court order and told to get back to Melbourne immediately,” Les Thomas said, describing the order as persecution.
“He was trying to spend some time getting to know his wife and kids,” he added. “He has a long way to go before he gets over what he has been put through in Australia and Pakistan.”
“We just didn’t expect them to stoop this low,” he said.
A federal magistrate made the order Sunday after receiving a request from police approved by Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, police said in a statement.
Courts can order such restrictions, including that suspected extremists be monitored with tracking bracelets for up to a year, if convinced of the need to protect the public from a terrorist attack or that the suspect has been trained by a terrorist group.
In appealing his conviction, Thomas’ lawyers had said he agreed to speak to Australian police without a lawyer present after weeks of being held in a Pakistani jail. Thomas believed that if he didn’t cooperate with police, he would be sent to the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, his lawyers said.
Government lawyers told the appeal hearing they had new evidence that strengthened their case, and that Thomas should be retried. The judges agreed to consider that argument at a later date, which hasn’t been set.