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Sirul in limbo as Australia races to pass preventive detention laws
Published on: Wednesday, December 06, 2023
By: FMT, K Parkaran
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Sirul in limbo as Australia races to pass preventive detention laws
According to news reports, Sirul Azhar Umar is among 148 criminals ‘on the loose’ in Australia. (Aljazeera pic)
PETALING JAYA: The Australian parliament is said to be rushing through sweeping new laws designed to recapture the majority of the 148 immigration detainees released last month following a High Court ruling that indefinite detention is illegal.

According to news reports mentioning Malaysian murder convict Sirul Azhar Umar as among the most notorious criminals “on the loose” in Australia, the government is pushing to pass the law before the parliament adjourns for the year this Friday.

The Sydney Morning Herald said the latest law would enable the government to ask a court to return a former detainee to custody for up to three years, if they were previously convicted of a violent or sexual crime punishable with a maximum sentence of at least seven years.

However, this can only be done if a judge agrees there is a high probability that they will commit another offence.

“This also applies to people convicted of the same kind of offences overseas, with several legal experts saying they are not aware of any other legislation in Australia that allows judges to detain someone on the basis of a foreign conviction,” the report said.

In line with its laws, Canberra will not deport those facing the death sentence back to their countries of origin.

Quoting a constitutional expert, the report said the counter-terror legislation on which the new bill was modelled only referred to Australian convictions.

“Under this amendment, judges will for the first time be able to use foreign convictions to put someone behind bars,” it added.

In documents related to the amendments, the government also acknowledged the legislation could breach human rights relating to discrimination, given that Australian citizens convicted of similar offences are not subjected to such restrictions.

The opposition said its representatives would support any bill that would keep Australians safe.

Last month, the ruling party and the opposition teamed up to pass laws requiring former detainees to wear ankle bracelets and abide by strict curfews, regardless of whether they have criminal convictions.

Sirul was among those fitted with electronic monitoring devices, slapped with a curfew, and required to periodically report to the police.

The former policeman is facing the death sentence in Malaysia for murdering Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu in 2006, together with his former colleague Azilah Hadri.

Sirul fled to Australia in 2015, before the Federal Court overturned the Court of Appeal’s decision to free him and Azilah and reinstated the High Court’s earlier decision sentencing them to death.

Azilah has been detained in Kajang Prison and is among 1,000 inmates on death row who have applied for a review of their sentences.

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