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Vic terror plot focus on Asia, not Syria

AAP logoAAP 1/09/2016 Jacqueline Le

A terror suspect accused of trying to sail from Australia to Papua New Guinea so he could fight alongside Islamic State will remain behind bars indefinitely amid police fears he could endanger public safety.

Paul Dacre, 31, was refused bail in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on Thursday on one charge of making preparations for incursions into foreign countries for the purpose of engaging in hostile activities.

The former IT worker has been in custody since he and four other men - Islamic preacher Musa Cerantonio, Shayden Thorne, Kadir Kaya, and Antonio Granata - were arrested near Cairns in May.

The men were allegedly towing a fishing boat to Cape York in far north Queensland as part of a plan to reach PNG and ultimately Syria.

Federal investigators on Thursday alleged Dacre and his co-accused had planned to join an IS faction in southern Philippines, before continuing to Syria.

It is alleged Dacre is a close friend of Cerantonio, who Australian Federal Police counter terrorism agent Jake Samson described as a "self-styled Islamic cleric who espouses extreme Islamic rhetoric" in an affidavit opposing Dacre's bail application.

Cerantonio has been identified as among two of the most prominent Syrian foreign fighter spiritual authorities, according to a 2014 radicalisation study from London cited in Mr Samson's affidavit.

Mr Samson told the court Dacre would pose a risk to community safety if released because of his extremist IS ideology.

"If he is released on bail it's likely he will encourage extremism among his associates - including encouraging brothers to travel overseas," he said.

The federal agent also said Dacre's support of IS means he is likely to be influenced by a fatwa - a religious ruling - by extremist sheikhs calling for followers to "attack the kafir wherever you find them".

"He considers he is under obligation to commit acts of violence in the Australian community," Mr Samson said.

The AFP says officers found documents on Dacre's phone about hijrah - which Mr Samson described as "the intention to travel to the caliphate" - that included instructions about what to do if an IS follower was unable to travel.

Dacre had his Australian passport cancelled in 2015 while trying to fly from Perth to France with his wife, a French national, and their three children.

Dacre's defence lawyer, Charlie Atlas, said his client should be released on bail because of the delay until trial, which is not expected for at least another 12 months, and the "weak" and circumstantial prosecution case against Dacre.

But Magistrate Belinda Wallington said the inferences drawn from the circumstantial evidence collected by AFP were not weak.

"At the moment it cannot be said that the case against you is weak," she told Dacre.

Five men charged over a plot to leave Australia by boat so they could support Islamic State were allegedly on their way to join the terrorist group's growing faction in southern Philippines.

Melbourne resident Paul Dacre, 31, and four other men were arrested near Cairns in May and charged with making preparations for incursions into foreign countries for the purpose of engaging in hostile activities.

Dacre and Islamic preacher Musa Cerantonio, Shayden Thorne, Kadir Kaya, and Antonio Granata were allegedly towing a fishing boat to Cape York in far north Queensland as part of a plan to reach Papua New Guinea.

A sixth man, Murat Kaya, was later arrested in Melbourne during raids and charged with the same offence.

Dacre was refused bail in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on Thursday after federal investigators said the former IT worker would pose a risk to community safety if released because of his extremist IS ideology.

It is alleged Dacre is a close friend of Cerantonio, who Australian Federal Police counter terrorism agent Jake Samson described as a "self-styled Islamic cleric who espouses extreme Islamic rhetoric" in an affidavit opposing Dacre's bail application.

Cerantonio has been identified as among two of the most prominent Syrian foreign fighter spiritual authorities, according to a a 2014 radicalisation study from London cited in Samson's affidavit.

AFP alleges the group's plot to join IS began taking shape in February, when Dacre and Murat Kaya drove to Darwin to inspect a 25-metre former naval vessel.

The men left Victoria with $50,000 cash, but did not purchase the boat as planned because they were unhappy with its condition.

During the inspection, the men allegedly told an undercover agent they wanted to sail to Bali from Cairns.

In May, Cerantonio and Kaya bought a seven-metre boat from a private seller in Bendigo. Another co-accused bought a car from an associate.

All six men and their spouses later met at a house in Deer Park to finalise their alleged travel plans.

Murat Kaya stayed in Victoria while the five men drove north. The men travelled 3000km in almost 88 hours, with their vehicle experiencing several breakdowns en route to far north Queensland.

After they were arrested on May 10, investigators seized survival equipment from their boat and vehicle, as well as $3200 in cash, US and Filipino currency, maps of Southeast Asia and the Philippines.

An Australian flag, a European Union flag and Indonesian flag were also seized.

"Investigators did not locate any fishing rods or associated fishing equipment in the vehicle or boat that supported the proposition the accused were on a fishing trip," agent Samson said in his affidavit.

None of the men's wives have been charged with helping them attempt to join IS, he said.

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