As the president and founder of Social Justice Network, the official organizer of the International Tours of Peace to Syria, I would like to express my deep disappointment in the way the authorities mistreated participants of the tour.
All of us at Social Justice Network cannot find any logical explanation for the interception and intense investigation I was subjected on my way to Syria and back.
I am a well known anti-extremism activist and community leader. I have received countless (and still do) death threats. I have been physically attacked and verbally abused by extremists. Despite this I was held by Australian Border Force for hours at Melbourne and Sydney airports.
Until now I don’t know why I was investigated. I am a well known anti-extremist activist. I have already visited Syria twice before. I had declared months in advance about my intention to visit Syria in October. I even went to the extent to communicate to the antiterrorism agencies about my movements. The ABF investigation was baseless and had no aim but to send the wrong message in all directions.
The ABF provided no legal basis for the interception and investigation. There is nothing in the anti-terrorism legislation that gives security agencies the authority to intercept and try to humiliate citizens for no reason. I was given no reason as to way I was held so many hours at the airport.
Australia Border Force claim they did not recognize me and had no knowledge about the tour which sounds more like a bid to cover up their farce. So I ask, if the ABF had no knowledge of our tour, what is the reason they intercepted again all the participants on the way back again. And why and for what reason the ABF investigated the participants in the first place?
It is also strange that the ABF illegal and unnecessary actions towards SJN, did not attract any attention from the Australian media despite getting huge NZ media coverage after the harsh treatment of Mr Warren Marriner.
It is obvious these actions were politically motivated.
When we combine the intense investigation of the participants with the arrest and deportation of NZ peace activist Warren Marriner, we can comfortably reach the conclusion that our authorities were actually targeting our anti-extremists initiative.
Australian authorities should be condemned by all means for targeting peace-activists. Such move only sends the wrong message that in fact Australia supports extremists in Australia and in Syria.
In a delicate time when Australia faces the most serious challenge from terrorists, such message could have a devastated effect.
I want to reassure the public that the illegal regressive actions carried out by the authorities will not deter us. SJN will continue its commitment to speak out and fight against extremism and terrorism.