TONY EASTLEY: A Sydney-based Islamic preacher has reportedly been named as a recruiter for an informal Australian terrorist network.
French anti-terror investigators have apparently been told by deported terror suspect Willie Brigitte, that a Sydney man was recruiting “volunteers for Jihad.”
Intelligence analysts say it’s still too early to judge the claim’s veracity, made in News Limited newspapers this morning, but AM understands while some associates of Brigitte’s were forced to answer questions, the man reportedly accused by Brigitte has not been questioned by ASIO.
Soon we’ll hear more about that and we’ll speak to Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, but first this report from Rafael Epstein.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: The French documents reportedly contain details of the interrogation of the deported terror suspect, Willie Brigitte.
For the first three days of his interrogation he was in a cell with the lights on 24 hours a day, and he had no access to a lawyer.
Brigitte is said to have told his interrogators that there is an informal terror network operating in western Sydney with the aim of recruiting people for Jihad operations.
When Brigitte was in Australia last year he married Australian citizen Melanie Brown.
In the documents Brigitte reportedly told his interrogators the man who presided over their marriage is a recruiter. Quote “the recruiter in Australia of volunteers for the Jihad, operating from the Mousalla Mosque of Lakemba”.
That’s a reference to the prayer room in Sydney’s west where Brigitte married the former soldier who had been in the army’s signal core.
Details of the allegations against Willie Brigitte and his Australian associates have dripped out regularly in the media since his deportation last year.
David Wright-Neville is a former analyst with the key intelligence agency, the Office of National Assessments.
DAVID WRIGHT-NEVILLE: Well in the public realm we know very little. Most of what has been reported in the media, I think, is mainly speculation. There’s some doubts about the nature of the sources, about the nature of the information, the age of the information as well. We don’t know at what stage the information they’ve gathered, who it was gathered from, and I think until we have a more solid grasp on the circumstances around Willie Brigitte it would be perhaps more prudent to refrain from speculation.
RAFAEL ESPSTEIN: It seems like something serious was going on around Willie Brigitte. Does this add much to our understanding of what was really happening?
DAVID WRIGHT-NEVILLE: Well even if we dismissed the alleged facts in this case, and we talk about the sort of more general dynamics that seemed to have been swirling around Brigitte, they’re consistent with what we know was going on around others in the community, and allegations who have been made around other people.
I think it’d be naive to assume there is nothing go on in Australia, that Australia somehow has been quarantined from the broader extremist dynamics that are happening in almost every other Western country in the world. But whether or not this dynamic in Australia has reached a concrete stage, to the point where they’re planning major attacks in places like Sydney, I think that’s yet to be established.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: The French document also claims that the man described by Brigitte as a recruiter, went to the United States in 2001 to meet with an Islamic cleric called Ali Timimi.
The CIA believes Timimi was the head of a terror network in the state of Virginia and was also a chief recruiter for the Pakistani extremist group, Lashkar-e-Toiba.
In a previous statement, Ali Timimi said he quote: “fervently denies any formal or informal charges that he has in the past supported or currently is supporting any terrorist activity.”