New Zealander Amin Mohamed Charged With Attempting To Fight In Syria

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Protesters from the activist group ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) rally against U.S. bombing in Syria in front of the White House in Washington, September 25, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing
Protesters from the activist group ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) rally against U.S. bombing in Syria in front of the White House in Washington, September 25, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing Reuters/Larry Downing

New Zealand citizen Amin Mohamed now living in Australia was charged with four counts of attempting to travel overseas to fight in Syria. Reports said authorities had accused him of taking part in coded phone conversations to arrange his trip out of the country without getting caught.

However, The Guardian reports Mohamed's defence lawyers insist prosecutors do not have evidence of his intentions to go to Syria. The 23-year-old suspect appeared before a court in Melbourne where prosecutors claimed Mohamed spoke with Hamdi Al Qudsi who was arrested in 2013 in Sydney for recruiting people to fight the Syrian government. Prosecutor Mark Gibson told the court that police had intercepted phones calls of Mohamed throughout Sept. 2013 including one conversation he had with Al Qudsi who mentioned a "big job coming up."

Al Qudsi had reportedly told Mohamed said a big operation was coming with 1,500 "holy warriors that may obtain martyrdom in the path of Allah." Mohamed had allegedly replied with he and "two other doctors" were prepared for surgery and finalising his "surgical equipment." Police believe the two were speaking in code during that time.

In the same month, police said Mohamed bought a mobile phone and subscribed to services under the name, Chris Wight. Gibson claimed he used a false name in preparation for his travel to Syria. Police intercepted a phone call on Sept. 16 where the suspect told an unknown person on the other line that everything was ready.

Mohamed was refused processing at customs which prevented him from boarding his flight to Singapore from Brisbane. Customs officers told him his New Zealand passport was cancelled and recalled. When asked about his travel arrangements, police noted that he was being unresponsive and evasive.

Reports said police searched for Mohamed's luggage and discovered a plastic bag with the label "Abu Malik" which they believe is another name for Mehmet Biber who is now fighting in Syria after he left Sydney in July 2013.

According to Radio NZ, New Zealand's Department of Internal Affairs and the Security Intelligence Service have no comment on the case.

Under Australia's proposed counter-terrorism laws, a person who is in the country but has been proven to be preparing to fight in overseas conflicts and join extremist groups may face a penalty of life imprisonment. Since Mohamed was arrested in 2013, his trial is covered by existing laws. Therefore, reports said prosecutors will have to prove that he was preparing to fight in Syria.