South Australian woman Zainab Abdirahman-Khalif, who was re-arrested today after the High Court reinstated her conviction for being a member of terrorist group Islamic State (IS), will make a bid to be released on parole.
An Adelaide jury had found her guilty of the charge, but she was freed on appeal.
She will now return to jail.
Her lawyer, James Caldicott, said she was devastated and disappointed by the outcome, and that she would be applying for release on parole.
“My client, who has been in the community with no issue, no impropriety for a period of over a year, had now been [taken] back into custody,” Mr Caldicott said.
“We will be, as urgently as we can, making an application for parole.”
Abdirahman-Khalif had been denied parole just before her Supreme Court acquittal last year, he said.
Decision makes association offences ‘harder to defend against’
Mr Caldicott said the High Court decision would have wide-ranging consequences for future court cases involving terrorist group membership and criminal association offences, which he argued made those charges more difficult to defend.
The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions welcomed today’s ruling, saying it clarified the law by finding membership of a terrorist group does not require an exhaustive or rigid definition, but was instead a matter for a jury to decide.
Another 205 days in prison
Abdirahman-Khalif had denied being a member of the IS terrorist group after she was arrested trying to board a plane on a one-way ticket to Turkey, where she said she hoped to do aid work.
But during a hearing at Adelaide Magistrates Court this afternoon, Abdirahman-Khalif was told she would serve a further 205 days behind bars.
She appeared via video link from the city watch house, where Magistrate Brett Dixon informed her of the High Court decision.
Magistrate Dixon told her he would issue a warrant that authorises the AFP to take her to Adelaide Women’s Prison.
The AFP spokesperson said Abdirahman-Khalif was under a control order.
“A control order remains in place in relation to this individual, which was confirmed in the Federal Court in Adelaide on July 17, 2020,” the spokesperson said.
“The AFP, South Australia Police and partners use control orders — and other available legislative measures — to ensure the ongoing safety of the Australian community.”
From the first arrest to the upheld charges
Abdirahman-Khalif was detained at Adelaide Airport in July 2016 trying to board a plane to Turkey with hand luggage and $180. At the time, she was released without charge.
In May 2017, she was again arrested and charged by Australian Federal Police with knowingly being a member of a terrorist organisation.
In September 2018, following a three-week trial, Abdirahman-Khalif was found guilty of being a member of the Islamic State.
It took the jury of five women and seven men about three hours to reach an unanimous verdict.
The court heard 378 audio files associated with IS were found on her phone, along with 125 videos from an IS media organisation, 62 of which contained extremist material including vision of buildings being blown up, captives being executed and dead bodies on the ground.
Abdirahman-Khalif was also in communication with three young African women who carried out a bombing in Mombasa, Kenya, in September 2016, for which IS later claimed responsibility.
The court heard she had been repeating oaths and singing songs connected to Islamic State in her bedroom.
However, late last year Abdirahman-Khalif was freed after an appeal found the prosecution had failed to present evidence of how a terrorist organisation admitted members.
One of the key issues then was whether the steps she took to go to Turkey were sufficient to link her to membership of IS.
Today, the High Court said evidence on Abdirahman-Khalif’s electronic devices showed she had taken intentional steps to become a member of the terror group.
“[This] included swearing allegiance to the Caliph, and answering the call to go to Sham to serve in support of the jihadis by attempting to fly to Turkey by one-way flight without informing her family and without the resources to return,” the High Court said in its judgment.
“It cannot reasonably be doubted that it was open to the jury to conclude that the respondent thereby intentionally took steps to become a member of Islamic State.”
The High Court also found that the law accommodated the unstructured nature of such groups.
Abdirahman-Khalif had served two-and-a-half years of the three-year sentence at the time she was released from prison.
In the meantime she has been living under a police control order, limiting her contacts and movements.