Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Australia: Charges Laid Following Major Counterterrorism Operation in Sydney

(Sept. 24, 2014) Sydney Raids

On September 18, 2014, more than 800 police officers from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the New South Wales Police Force carried out 25 search warrants involving premises and vehicles located in 13 western and northwestern Sydney suburbs. The early morning raids resulted from a Joint Counter Terrorism Team investigation related to allegations that a group of people were planning to carry out random attacks on individuals in Australia. (Press Release, AFP, 15 People Detained as Part of Major Counter Terrorism Investigation (Sept. 18, 2014).) In particular, the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, stated that intelligence had indicated that people in Australia were allegedly planning to “snatch and behead” a random member of the public in the name of the militant group Islamic State. (Latika Bourke, Public Beheading Fears: Tony Abbott Confirms Police Believed Terrorists Planned ‘Demonstration Killings,’ SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (Sept. 18, 2014).)

Joint Counter Terrorism Teams are maintained in each Australian jurisdiction and comprise “AFP, state and territory police, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation officers and members from other relevant agencies.” (Fighting Terrorism, AFP website (last visited Sept. 22, 2014).)

Arrests and Charges Laid

Sixteen people were detained as a result of the operation, which was dubbed Operation Appleby. Ten of them were released the same day. Three men were subject to Preventative Detention Orders and were released on September 19 when those orders expired. A 17-year-old girl will be dealt with under the Young Offenders Act. One man was charged with conspiracy to commit acts in preparation of a terrorist act and with financing terrorism and was refused bail after appearing in court on September 18, and two women were issued Future Court Attendance Notices. (Press Release, AFP, Clarification of Operation Appleby Numbers (Sept. 20, 2014).) A second man was charged with possession of ammunition without a license and unauthorized possession of a prohibited weapon. (Press Release, AFP, Update: Major Sydney Counter Terrorism Investigation; Two Charged (Sept. 18, 2014).)

This is the first time that the AFP has used Preventative Detention Orders. (Jason Om, Counter-Terrorism Raids: AFP Used Extraordinary Powers for First Time to DetainPeople Without Charge, ABC NEWS (Sept. 20, 2014).) Such orders are available under the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) and allow for people to be detained for a certain period without charge, to prevent an imminent terrorist act or to preserve evidence related to a recent terrorist attack. (Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) pt 5.3, div 105; Lisa White, Australia: Terrorism Laws: Preventative Detention Orders and Prohibited Contact Orders, Law Library of Congress website (Oct. 2008).) The New South Wales Supreme Court has made a suppression order preventing reporting of information that relates to the granting of the Preventative Detention Orders. (Paul Farrell, Indefinite Ban on Reporting of Counter-Terrorism Preventative Detention Order, GUARDIAN (Sept. 22, 2014).)

About 400 people protested the raids in western Sydney on the evening of September 18, with speakers decrying the tactics used in the raids and expressing concern about the scapegoating of the Muslim community. (Tom Allard, Muslim Community Apprehension After Raids Leads to “Snap Protest,” SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (Sept. 18, 2014).)

Queensland Raids

Australian authorities are looking at whether there are any links between investigations that led to the Sydney raids and police operations in Queensland earlier in the month, in which AFP officers and the Queensland Police Service searched an Islamic center and bookstore and arrested two men over activities related to recruiting and funding people to travel to Syria “to engage in hostile activities.” (Matt Wordsworth, Islamic Centre Raided: Police Search Logan Centre Linked to Syria Conflict, Two Men Arrested, ABC NEWS (Sept. 10, 2014); Press Release, AFP, Two Brisbane Men Arrested on Terrorism-Related Offences (Sept. 10, 2014).) Separate search warrants were also executed in Brisbane on the same day as the Sydney raids. (Australian Terror Raids: AFP, ASIO Move on Suspected Terrorists, NEWS.COM.AU (Sept. 19, 2014).)

New Anti-Terrorism Laws Proposed

The Australian government is preparing to introduce new national security legislation in the Parliament that are expected to include expanded powers and new offenses related to terrorist activities. In particular, the Cabinet approved the “Counter Terrorism Foreign Fighters Bill” in early August 2014. The bill will apparently include an offense of encouraging or promoting terrorism and create new restrictions or requirements for persons who return to Australia from certain areas in the world. Legislation may also be introduced to establish a system of mandatory data retention by telecommunications providers. (Joint Press Conference, Hon. Tony Abbot MP, New Counter-Terrorism Measures for a Safer Australia; Racial Discrimination Act; Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17; Baby Gammy (Aug. 5, 2014); Heath Aston, Labor Demands Detail in Foreign Fighters Bill Before Pledging Support, SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (Sept. 21, 2014).) The Attorney-General has also stated that the government would seek to extend the availability of the preventative detention powers to 2025. These powers are currently scheduled to expire in 2015. (Farrell, supra.)