In farcical developments in regards to the case of Br. Oliver Bridgeman, on whose case we reported recently, it now appears that ASIO has relied ostensibly on online posts (often poorly understood and almost always ludicrously interpreted) to build a “case” in relation to his supposed “extremist” ideology.
The Guardian reports today (see article below) that, among other things, “evidence included in the intelligence assessment is a post Bridgeman made on Facebook in which he writes: “If ‘he’ [Sharif] hurry up and find me a wife, I wouldn’t have any time to make funny videos like this.””
In other words, part of ASIO’s “evidence” against Oliver is a light-hearted marriage joke made by thousands of Muslims on Facebook on a daily basis.
Besides this, other supposed “evidence” cannot possibly be interpreted to mean what ASIO thinks it does. However, as is now a well-known course of events, the wildest interpretation is given to online posts and comments to reach a pre-desired conclusion: that of the well-intended Muslim aid worker as a sinister extremist.
This is not the first such case, but only goes to prove the intelligence agencies’ desperation in framing well-intentioned young Muslims as extremists for wanting to help their desperately war-affected brothers and sisters.
Asio report against Queensland teenager in Syria relies on social media and news reports
A Queensland teenager had his passport cancelled after an Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation assessment found he travelled to Syria to engage in “politically motivated violence” or commit acts in support of it.
But Oliver Bridgeman’s lawyer argues that Asio’s evidence, which is drawn from publicly available material such as social media posts and media reports, as well as a Queensland police liaison, is “incapable of rationally supporting” the intelligence agency’s conclusions.
The assessment, obtained by Guardian Australia, argues Bridgeman “likely remains ideologically supportive of politically motivated violence” and could prejudice Australian security if permitted to keep his travel documents.
It lists as evidence Facebook posts that “appear to show Mr Bridgeman engaging in humanitarian work alongside Syria-based UK nationalTauqir ‘Tox’ Sharif”.
Sharif founded the purported aid group, Live Updates from Syria, with his wife, Racquell Hayden-Best. The pair still held UK passports as of March 2015, but their daughter, born in mid-2013 in Turkey, has been denied British travel documents.
Other evidence included in the intelligence assessment is a post Bridgeman made on Facebook in which he writes: “If ‘he’ [Sharif] hurry up and find me a wife, I wouldn’t have any time to make funny videos like this.”
It notes media reports from May 2015 that Bridgeman had travelled to Syria without his parents’ knowledge “and was suspected by the Australian Federal Police of having joined a proscribed terrorist organisation” – a claim the Toowoomba teenager denies.
The assessment also notes an interview with Bridgeman broadcast on 60 Minutes. “During this story Mr Bridgeman claimed he was working in a refugee camp and distributing aid as it was his moral obligation; and had never joined a rebel group or been involved in fighting, but had a good relationship with different rebel groups for his own protection,” it reads.
No other evidence is presented to justify the claim Bridgeman supports politically motivated violence, but a standard footer at the assessment notes sections have been omitted in line with the Asio Act. It is not clear whether any omitted material includes evidence against Bridgeman.
Other Asio security assessments seen by Guardian Australia are comparatively stronger, claiming the subjects “adhere to an extremist ideology”, “associate with individuals engaged in activities prejudicial to security” and “likely intend to travel overseas to engage in politically motivated violence”.
Bridgeman’s solicitor, Alex Jones, filed an appeal to the passport revocation on Monday, arguing the reasons given for cancelling his travel documents “are incapable of rationally supporting” Asio’s conclusions.
“The assessment relies upon Australian national print media articles from the 15th and 16th of May 2015 noting that Mr Bridgeman was suspected of having joined prescribed terrorist organisations,” Jones argued.
“Other than the nine-month-old hearsay report of a suspicion, every other matter referred to in the security assessment supports the proposition that Mr Bridgeman is in Syria performing charitable work.
“The assessment further relies on the fact that Mr Bridgeman featured in a ‘60 Minutes’ story on Australian television claiming that he was performing humanitarian and charitable work and does not belong to any rebel group or fraction, nor has engaged or attempted to engage in any fighting. Nothing is presented in the assessment to refute that claim.”
The 19-year-old was reported missing by his parents in March 2015 after failing to board a return flight from Bali. He is now believed to be in northern Syria.
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