(Trinidad Guardian) As nine T&T nationals were expected to be deported late yesterday for allegedly trying to travel to Syria to join the terror group, Islamic State, also known as Isis, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi is assuring the nation that the men, like any other deportees, will be kept under strict surveillance. He added that evidence was currently being gathered to determine what possible charges they may face.
He said these could range from facing a jail term, heavy sanctions and forfeiture of assets.
“At the end of the day anybody in an alleged circumstance of terrorism has to face the courts. There is due process and it must be done fairly but at the same time you have to take an intelligence-based approach to this,” the AG said in an interview yesterday.
According to the Daily Sabah, the men were nabbed by Turkish officials in Adana, while travelling in a truck on July 27.
The truck was stopped by police acting on a tip-off that “foreigners” were said to be en route to join the terrorist organisation active in Syria and Iraq.
The newspaper said Assem Hasseno, a Syrian suspect accused of transporting unidentified Trinidadians to Syria, was also detained. Hasseno was remanded in custody.
Adana is among the cities near the Syrian border where foreign fighters attempt to illegally cross to join Isis, otherwise known as Daesh.
The report said Turkey, which shares a lengthy border with Syria, is popular among Daesh’s foreign recruits from all across the globe although this was likely the first time for citizens of T&T.
Since 2011, Turkey has deported more than 3,290 foreign terrorist fighters from 95 countries and refused 38,269 individuals entry to Turkey in its fight against Daesh, which counts the Muslim-majority country among its enemies, the report said.
It added that Daesh was responsible for a string of terror attacks in Ankara and Istanbul, as well as cross-border fire from Syria that has killed a number of residents since last year in Turkish border towns.
Al-Rawi said yesterday Isis was listed in the local courts as an internationally recognised terror group. Hence, if this country’s citizens were found outside of T&T attempting to engage with the group the local law automatically would take effect.
He said there were 74 other international terrorist groups which were currently being listed before T&T’s courts. “If we see somebody is going off to join Isis…But what is Isis in our laws? They have to be listed as one of the steps needed to build your case to getting these people before the court and to have any attempt to apply the Anti-Terrorism Act successfully,” Al-Rawi said.
He said if the evidence therefore proved there was a link between the nine deportees and Isis then the laws would be applied under the act.
Legislation, he added, was also currently before the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the Police Commissioner and the Chief Immigration Officer, all of whom still had to report back on how to deal with returning foreign terrorist fighters.
This piece of law was expected to be before the Parliament in September, Al-Rawi added.
“This piece of legislation would be a combination of events that is the operationalisation of the existing law which is the Anti-Terrorism Act and the issue of how one treats with the return of foreign terrorist fighters through our country or through coordinate countries that they may pass through in transit. “That one is near completion and just requires the feedback from those three agencies,” Al-Rawi said.
And amid growing concerns from members of the public that more and more Trinidadians who were bent on taking up Isis’s cause were being shipped back to this country, Al-Rawi said intelligence agencies were keeping a close watch on them.
He sought to alleviate the fears of citizens saying that such agencies were having discussions with international counterparts.
“This is not a new phenomenon. We have been engaged in counterpart discussions with our established partners and also with the government of Turkey itself,” Al-Rawi said.
He said various international agencies have been “watching T&T” and monitoring its effectiveness by requesting proof that this country’s laws were actually being used.