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.
National Security Council meeting
On concerns that the deportees may form their own gangs the AG said the council met on Sunday and efforts were being made to “tighten up” the response to such issues.
“We have very robust and active surveillance measures in T&T through various agencies. That means you would have to have your intelligence not only converted to information but evidence and that is the first step to ensure you have things that are actionable,” Al-Rawi said.
But the current Anti-Gang and Bail Legislation is set to expire on August 15, 2016.
He said the AG’s office was having ongoing discussions with the Criminal Gang and Intelligence unit and with other agencies to produce the necessary information to have public discussions regarding the future of anti-gang legislation.
“It is more than just statistical information. We now have to look to cause and effect, not only what you have achieved but what you have avoided by way of utilisation of these laws.
“You have to look at how these statistics translate into the crime patterns and activities from an intelligence perspective” and that work is underway, Al-Rawi said, adding that significant advancements have already been made.
He said upon landing at Piarco Airport, all deportees were met by law enforcement agencies following which an entire debriefing process took place.
“If there is anything untoward, the steps are taken right then and there by the agencies tasked with the responsibilities including the police and I can assure that the persons who are deported are kept under suitable surveillance as the case may dictate,” Al-Rawi added.
Dr Nasser Mustapha, executive member and former president of the Trinidad Muslim League (TML), said he was concerned that T&T nationals were still joining Isis.
He said he thought by now they would have had enough sense to refrain from doing so.
“They should be aware by now that what Isis is doing is not in keeping with the teachings of Islam. All forms of violence and extremism are against the teachings of Islam. “When we see the things they are doing and loss of innocent lives and the instability they are causing I am surprised that people still want to go there,” Mustapha said.
A report from another Syrian newspaper yesterday said the T&T nationals were referred to the Adana Immigration Authority Directorate for deportation. But Immigrations officials were unable to say when they would be deported as there was no direct flight to Piarco Airport.
It said the men would have to go through London or Amsterdam but neither of these cities was willing to accommodate the deportation.
The Turkish authorities were liaising with National Security officials in Trinidad in an effort to resolve the matter and were asking the T&T authorities to monitor the arrival of these Trinidadians whenever they were deported, the report said. Some of these Trinidadians reportedly left Trinidad, flew to Caracas, then landed in Amsterdam where they met their contact person.
The report said investigations revealed that the detained Trinidadians worshipped at mosques in central Trinidad, Rio Claro, and Sangre Grande.
No weapons were seized from the Trinidadians but they were expected to be fully armed once they reached Syria, the report added.
Turkey has been on high alert after being rocked by a series of suicide and car bomb attacks that have claimed many lives and wounded hundreds. The attacks were claimed by the jihadist group.
On June 28, at least 44 people were killed and hundreds were wounded in a suicide bomb attack at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport blamed on Isis.
Europe has been attacked by Isis in recent months including France and Belgium.