<Airwolf's thoughts on the subject removed by CoC Division of Pre-Crime>
Let hunger strikers pray together: call
By Jamie Duncan and Shelley Markham
January 11, 2006
TEN terrorist suspects on a hunger strike in a Victorian high security jail should have the right to pray together, a prominent Muslim leader said today.
The men, devout Muslims who are being held in the maximum security Acacia unit at Barwon Prison near Geelong, began the hunger strike on Monday.
The 10, arrested in pre-dawn raids in Melbourne and Sydney in November, are facing charges including being members of a terrorist organisation.
Islamic Council of Victoria president Malcolm Thomas said he was concerned the men had not been found guilty of any crime yet had been barred from following their beliefs.
Prison authorities denied the men permission to hold a short Friday afternoon group prayer session.
The men also complained about prison conditions and the amount of food they receive.
It is understood six of the men are allowed out of their cells in pairs from 9am to 2pm each day.
But four others, believed to include alleged leader Abdul Nacer Benbrika, are locked down 23 hours a day.
Mr Thomas said group prayer was a key part of the Muslim faith.
"We can't forget that these guys are on remand and while solitary confinement is a decision that is made by the powers that be, they should be able to practise their religion," he said.
"Our religion is not a religion of terror, it is a religion of submission to God and communal prayer brings people together to get the maximum benefit from prayer."
Their lawyer, Rob Stary, said it was unlikely any harm would come from group prayers.
"It seems to me that in the Acacia Unit, which is the maximum security unit, every one of your communications are monitored, you're videotaped or audiotaped," he said.
"And if they did anything untoward or said anything in an untoward way, one would assume the authorities would segregate them again."
Mr Stary said the men were regarded as exemplary prisoners, they respected prison staff and had not been charged with crimes of violence.
But Corrections Victoria Commissioner Kelvin Anderson today said he would not bend, despite the hunger strike.
"Prison authorities have worked closely with Muslim leaders so alleged terrorism suspects have special food, prayer times and places to pray," he said today.
"Individuals charged with terrorism offences have been separated from each other for security reasons.
"No religious festival could ever have priority over our risk assessment arrangements.
"Our hand will not be forced by a hunger strike. We will not compromise public safety."
The men were receiving medical supervision, he said.
Nine of the men were arrested in Melbourne during co-ordinated ASIO, NSW Police and Victoria Police raids in Sydney and Melbourne on November 8 last year.
The tenth man was arrested in Sydney and later extradited to Melbourne.
All were charged with being members of a terrorist organisation.
The group's alleged leader, Muslim preacher Benbrika, 46, was also charged with directing a terrorist organisation.
The others nine are Ezzit Raad, 23, of Preston; Aimen Joud, 21, of Hoppers Crossing; Fadal Sayadi, 25, of Coburg; Amer Haddara, 26, of Yarraville; Ahmed Raad, 22, of Fawkner; Shane Kent, 28, of Meadow Heights; Abdulla Merhi, 20, of Fawkner; Hany Taha, 21, of Hadfield and Izzydeen Atik, 25, from Williamstown.
Eight of the men, excluding Kent and Haddara, have been charged with financing a terrorist organisation.
All are due to reappear in the Melbourne Magistrates Court for committal mention on April 11.
I wish them all great success with their hunger strike. May they all die of starvation.