TerrorismAussies debate terrorism and freedom of speech

Published 17 December 2012

Inspireis an English- language jihadist magazine created by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP); so far nine editions of the magazine have been produced; the magazine was produced and edited by two Americans, Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Kahn — both were killed by an U.S. drone in Yemen in August 2011; last Monday, a resident of Melbourne, Australia was charged with possessing terrorism-related materials because he was found to have four issues of Inspire in his possession

Terrorism has not been a major problem in Australia. Only thirty-three individuals have been prosecuted for terrorism- related activity, and inly two individuals  have faced a charge of possessing literature which could facilitate terroristic act, but without also being charged with being a member of a terrorist organization.

Bilal Khazaal is one of the two.  The Conversation reports that in 2004 he was arrested for combining jihadist literature with editorial comment to compile a document the government considered “likely to facilitate terrorism.” The document described different assassination methods for members of the U.S. British, Australian, and other NATO countries and was published on a Web site endorsed by al-Qaeda.

Khazaal was originally convicted, then released on appeal, but he was jailed again in a second trial that took place earlier this year.

Judge Latham stated at the first trial that whether or not Khazaal “was to engage in terrorist activity himself, entirely misses the point … literature of the type sourced by the prisoner is capable of, and has been shown to, foment terrorist activity”.

Last Monday a Melbourne resident was charged with four counts of possessing documents which were related to  a terrorist act. According to reports the man is seeking bail and plans to fight the charges.

These charges are different from Khazaa’s because they do not involve writing or combining documents, but simply being in possession of documents. The document in question are  four edition of the Jihadist magazine Inspire.

 Inspire is an English-language jihadist magazine created by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). So far nine editions of the magazine have been produced. The magazine was produced and edited by two Americans – Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Kahn. Both were killed by an U.S. drone in Yemen in August 2011.

A portion of each issue has a step-by-step guide for bomb-making and weapons use.

Director General David Irvine of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization(ASIO) stated that the magazine is “intended to with a youthful, audience: the i-jihad generation. It sends them a simple message: “Jihad: just do it!”” Irvine is also concerned that the magazine and the AQAP is targeting young English speaking Muslims to join them.

In the past, would-be terrorists who wanted to  conduct a terrorist attack in Australia  found it difficult  to find a religious authority to sanction an attack, a sanction many of the terrorist believe is necessary.

For example, in 2009 a terrorist cell attempted to conduct a suicide attack at Holsworthy Army Barracks, but the group could not find a religious figure to give them the green light, despite many efforts to do so. Eventually members of the  cell attempted to contact al-Shabbab in Somalia to receive permission, and in doing so they were identified and arrested.

The Australian security authorities argue that the magazine provides a sanction to commit violence in Western countries.  Inspire explicitly states that Australia is a “legitimate target that may be attacked at any time without any further justification or authorization required.”

The debate in Australia over Inspire and   freedom of speech is likely to heat up,  as some may argue that even if people do not agree with  what the magazine is saying, its writers should have the write to express themselves.

If the Melbourne resident who was brought up on charges for possessing copies of Inspire is convicted,  it would be the first  time in Australia in which a magazine  has been connected to the preparation of a terrorist attack.