Yesterday, a jury of the South Australian Supreme Court found Zainab Abdirahman-Khalif guilty of membership of a terrorist organisation, namely Islamic State. Ms Abdirahman-Khalif is a 23-year-old student who has been prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions under a commonwealth terrorism offence. The student is the first terror suspect to be charged and held in South Australia. The Commonwealth DPP has alleged that Ms Khalif was a member of a terrorist organisation between 2016 and 2017, a charge which she pleaded not guilty to.
Since being arrested by Australian Federal Police in May 2017, Ms Abdirahman-Khalif has been held in custody, having been refused bail. She will continue to be held in custody awaiting her sentence later this year, although it has been reported that she has instructed her defence counsel to file an appeal against the jury's verdict. I want to take this opportunity to reiterate to parliament the need to get laws prosecuting terrorist suspects absolutely right. South Australia has a zero tolerance for these offences. This case demonstrates that it is absolutely critical to ensure that the commonwealth and state laws operate to successfully sentence those who are chosen to participate in terrorist activities and ensure the protection of those who are innocent.
The government is prioritising community safety and responses to terror incidents through the passage of the Terrorism (Police Powers) (Use of Force) Amendment Bill to ensure that police are able to use force in terror incidents without criminal penalty by tasking 48 sworn officers with new rapid response capabilities to prevent and respond to terrorism-related incidents.
On a national level, last year the South Australian parliament passed the Statutes Amendment (Terror Suspect Detention) Act 2017 to give effect to the Council of Australian Governments' agreement that there be a presumption against bail and parole for persons with terrorism backgrounds who are charged with or convicted of general state offences.
The Council of Attorneys-General continues to work on strengthening terror-related legislation on a national level, but I reiterate: it is the government’s priority to successfully prosecute those who are guilty and protect those who are innocent.