Australian falls victim to new terror law

A man accused of receiving funds from al-Qaida in Pakistan has become the first Australian to have his movements restricted under tough new anti-terrorism laws, a government official said Monday. Joseph Thomas, a 32-year-old Muslim convert nicknamed "Jihad Jack" by Australian media, was convicted in the Victorian state Supreme Court in February of accepting US$3,500 (€2,936) 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. But he was freed this month when an appeal court ruled that a jury shouldn't have heard evidence that helped convict him. Judges of the Victorian Court of Appeal quashed his convictions ruling that the record of a police interview conducted in Pakistan should not have been presented as evidence in his trial. Thomas on Monday became the first person subjected to a control order under new terror laws, restricting his movements because he is deemed a terrorist threat, the federal attorney-general's spokesman Michael Pelly said. The order was made possible by a raft of new laws condemned by civil libertarians that came into effect in December designed to reduce the risk of homegrown terrorism following the London transport bombing in July. Courts can order such restrictions, including that suspected extremists be monitored with tracking bracelets for up to a year, if a magistrate finds that they are necessary to protect the public from a terrorist attack or that the suspect has been trained by a terrorist group. A federal magistrate made the order Sunday after receiving a request from police approved by Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, police said in a statement.