Thursday, 3 June 2010

The Australian woman threatened security, Australian intelligence

Source : The Australian newspaper, By Sally Neighbour

The Australian spy agency ASIO cancelled the passport of an Australian woman detained in Yemen for the past three weeks because her interpretation of Islam was "extremist" and it believed the 30-year-old English teacher and mother of two was a threat to security in Yemen.

Revelations of the reasons for ASIO's actions came as Yemeni authorities refused to release Shyloh Giddins's children from house arrest in the family's apartment in Sanaa.

Ms Giddins was imprisoned on May 15, five weeks after ASIO cancelled her passport. ASIO's statement of reasons says that Ms Giddins "has an extremist interpretation of Islam and her activities in Yemen are prejudicial to security".

It assessed that she was "likely to engage in activities prejudicial to the security of Australia or another nation". ASIO will not elaborate on what activities this refers to.

Ms Giddins's lawyer, Stephen Hopper, said the statement provided insufficient reasons and ASIO's comment on Ms Giddins's religious beliefs constituted "religious persecution".

Officials from the Australian embassy in Riyadh yesterday attempted to remove Ms Giddins's children from house arrest and transfer them into the custody of a German doctor who is a friend of the family, in accordance with Ms Giddins's instructions.

Yemeni guards stationed outside refused to allow the embassy officials entry to the apartment or access to the children -- Aminah, 4, and Omar, 7 -- according to Mr Hopper.

Abdel-Rahman Barman, a human rights activist and lawyer for the National Organisation for Defending Rights and Freedoms, said the detention of the children was a deliberate strategy.

"I think the security people want to exercise pressure on the mother by separating her from the children to make her talk (to see) if she has links with any terror groups," Mr Barman said.

The children are being cared for by a Bangladeshi friend of Ms Giddins, Rafah Hussein, who was also detained and interrogated by the Yemeni security forces before being released. The arrests were part of a sweeping crackdown by Yemen's Political Security Organisation on Islamist groups, after the attempted bombing of a US airliner last Christmas Day by a Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who studied in Yemen and was reportedly a follower of US-born, Yemen-based radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

Associated Press has reported that Yemeni security officers said the arrests were made after foreign intelligence agencies provided Yemeni authorities with names of people they wanted detained or put under surveillance.

The Australian has learned that 30-year-old Ms Giddins has been on ASIO's radar for several years. A counter-terrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she had been "a figure of interest for a considerable period of time". Ms Giddins's interest to the authorities is believed to stem from her former marriage to a Lebanese-Australian, Mohammed Touma, who was allegedly a senior member of a Middle Eastern organised crime group in southwestern Sydney and was believed to have been a close associate of Sydney crime identity Adnan "Eddie" Darwiche, who is serving two life sentences for murder in a Sydney prison.

Ms Giddins is believed to be a friend of Sydney woman Rabiah Hutchinson, who has been targeted for years by ASIO for her links with Islamist groups, including al-Qa'ida. Ms Hutchinson's two sons were arrested in Yemen in 2006 but released without charge. She declined to comment on Ms Giddins's case.

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