Neil Prakash denies connection to IS in Australia

Kilis, Turkey: Australia's most notorious Islamic State fighter, Neil Prakash, has told a Turkish court he has no connection to Islamic State in Australia.

In a brief hearing on Tuesday to establish Prakash's identity in relation to an extradition request by Australia, the presiding judge said Australian documents regarding his identity and charges had arrived and were before the court.

He asked Prakash about the Australian authorities' accusation of his involvement with the Islamic State terrorist group.

"You are accused of being the leader of DEAS [the acronym for Islamic State in Turkey] in Australia. Do you have anything to say about this?"

Appearing via video link from prison, Prakash, also known as Abu Khaled al-Cambodi, said "I am not guilty of DEAS in Australia. I have nothing to do with the leadership in Australia." He appeared concerned or confused.

Prakash has been kept in a high-security prison in the city of Gaziantep, near the Syrian border, for about a year. He was captured by Turkish authorities while trying to enter Turkey illegally in November 2016. He initially lied about his identity, leading to confusion about his conditions and connection with Islamic State in Syria.

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The case before the Kilis court is aimed at confirming his real identity and determining whether he has any connection to any terror activities against Turkey.

Documents confirming his identity and nationality were requested by Turkish authorities. Documents received confirmed his identity as Neil Christopher Prakash and nationality as Australian. They have now been added to his file.

So far no evidence or note detailing Prakash's involvement in any crimes or terrorist activities in Turkey has been revealed in the case files.

The prosecution demanded leave to refer the case to the Chief Public Prosecutor's office and request a determination on his extradition, as required by Turkish legal procedures.

His defence lawyer, Alper Unver, assigned to the case under Turkish law, told the court that there was no physical evidence against Prakash in the indictment, and demanded his release under judicial control.

The panel of judges unanimously ruled for Prakash to be remanded in prison, granting the prosecution the time for consultation on his extradition.

The next hearing was set for February 23.

The court must reach a verdict and conclude Prakash's trial in Turkey at this next hearing, Unver told Fairfax Media.

"There are no solid accusations against him in the lawsuit files. This trial is to decide whether Turkey would extradite Prakash to Australia or not."

When asked about a likely outcome, Unver said that according to Turkish law, Turkey had the right to keep Prakash in the country and/or release him under certain judicial controls.

Depending on the conditions of the country demanding extradition, Turkey may also decide to deport prisoners to a country other than their country of nationality.

In a previous interview with Fairfax Media, Unver said his client strongly refused to be extradited; but if given no choice, he demanded to be extradited to a Muslim country, not to Australia.

This story Neil Prakash denies connection to IS in Australia first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.