Legal bungle lets 'tinnie terrorists' on the loose

Exclusive: Three convicted terrorists have been accidentally released onto the streets without any court-ordered supervision after a legal stuff-up saw police run out of time to apply for control orders.

Paul Dacre, Antonino Granata and Kadir Kaya were freed from a Victorian prison Friday after serving four years in jail over a plot to sail to the Philippines and incite an Islamist uprising to bring down the government.

They had towed a 7m boat from Bendigo to north of Cairns in far-north Queensland before they were arrested in 2016.

Because the trio of "tinnie terrorists'' had served their complete jail terms, they are not on parole and are therefore subject to no court-ordered supervision.

Police are monitoring their activities and visited their homes in Victoria late Friday to issue them with firearms prohibition notices.

Kadir Kaya.
Kadir Kaya.

The Australian Federal Police had applied to the Supreme Court of Victoria for continuing detention orders, which allow for high-risk offenders to be held in custody for up to three years at the completion of their sentence.

But the court rejected the application. Sources said authorities were not permitted to have two concurrent applications running, so had to wait for one application to be finalised before they could launch another.

By the time police found out the application had been rejected and the men would be released from jail, they went to the Federal Court in Melbourne to seek interim control orders, but the paperwork, filed on Wednesday, came too late, and the men were released Friday.

Security camera footage from the Palmer River Roadhouse of the ‘tinnie terrorists’ stocking up supplies. Picture: Seven
Security camera footage from the Palmer River Roadhouse of the ‘tinnie terrorists’ stocking up supplies. Picture: Seven


The applications for interim control orders will now be held later in the month.

Laws to keep high-risk terrorists behind bars were passed in 2017, but police have never succeeded in obtaining a continuing detention order, which require the court to be satisfied that the offender poses an unacceptable risk of committing a serious terrorism offence if released.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is believed to be reviewing the laws. Picture: AAP
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is believed to be reviewing the laws. Picture: AAP

It's understood Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is considering a review of the highly-controversial laws, with police concerned the legal threshold is too high.

Federal Court Justice Michael Wheelahan on Friday adjourned Dacre's case to May 14, while Kaya's was put off until May 28. Granata's case will be heard on May 29.

The applicant in all three cases was the Australian Federal Police's Detective-Superintendent Sandra Booth.

"The AFP and Victoria Police are aware of the release of Paul Dacre, Kadir Kaya and Antonino Granata from prison today,'' an AFP spokesperson said on Friday night.

"The AFP have Interim Control Order applications in place in relation to these individuals.

"The AFP works with partner agencies to use Control Orders - and other available legislative measures - to ensure the ongoing safety of the Australian community.''

The men's freedom comes after months of concern from law enforcement and intelligence officials about the impending release of a dozen jihadis whose jail terms expire this year.

In March, a fourth tinnie terrorist, Shayden Thorne, was released from a Victorian jail with stringent control orders and returned to his home city of Perth.

He had served three years and 10 months in jail.

This is believed to be the boat.
This is believed to be the boat.

A fifth man involved in the plot, Kadir Kaya's brother Murat Kaya, was released on a control order with 20 conditions in Melbourne in January.

The plot's ringleader, firebrand preacher Robert "Musa'' Cerantonio, is not due for release until 2023.

At least eight terrorists have now been released into the Australian community in the past year, including Moudasser Taleb, who had beheading videos on his phone when he was arrested at Sydney Airport trying to fly to Syria to join the jihad. He was released in June.

Muhammad Abdul-Karim Musleh was released on a recognisance order in Sydney on August 12 after serving one year for helping others join the fight in Syria.

In Melbourne, Amin Mohamed was released in July and deported to New Zealand after serving six years and six months for attempting to become a foreign fighter. Parole was refused three times before his sentence expired.

Belal Saadallah Khazaal is due for release in September.
Belal Saadallah Khazaal is due for release in September.

Another person known as EB was freed on February 2 last year after serving 2 years and 3 months jail on terrorism offences.

A further two terrorists are thought to have been freed in the past 12 months including one in Brisbane.

Two other dangerous jihadis due for release this year have authorities deeply worried.

Belal Saadallah Khazaal, an Osama bin Laden confidante and former Qantas baggage handler who prepared an online DIY manual for aspiring jihadis, is due out in September after serving a 12-year sentence.

Abdul Nacer Benbrika is due out in November after his 15-year sentence expires.

The spiritual leader of Australia's largest terror plot, he was convicted in 2005 over several plots to attack the AFL grand final and the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor.

Originally published as Legal bungle lets terrorists on the loose

Paul Dacre.
Paul Dacre.