Teen in Syria won't face charges in Australia: lawyer
OLIVER Bridgeman's lawyer says he anticipates his client will be questioned by authorities upon his return to Australia, but won't face charges.
Human rights and criminal lawyer, Alex Jones from Bosscher Lawyers is representing Oliver Bridgeman.
Mr Jones said Mr Bridgeman travelled to Syria to participate in humanitarian efforts and work for a charitable organisation.
"At the time it was found out what he was doing, there were differing media reports about his motivations and intentions.
"That's created significant debate as to why he's there and what is motivations are."
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Mr Jones said it was his opinion that his client would not be facing any charges.
"Because at this stage, and I'm aware there have been investigations in relation to this, that he simply hasn't committed any offences whatsoever."
Mr Jones said there had been a two-stage investigation into Mr Bridgeman's activities in Syria.
"The first being once it was learnt that he had travelled (to Syria) police were quick to jump on his personal electronic items such as computers, etc to ensure he hadn't been in contact with anyone over there who was suspected of being involved in terrorist activities," he said.
"And then essentially just did a trace of his electronic profile to see exactly what his motivations might be.
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"I'm aware that those investigations have come up essentially clean, meaning there was nothing incriminating as a result of those investigations.
"And then the second leg of that investigation… is working out exactly where he is and what he's doing over there and it seems based on the reports that came out in 60 Minutes the other day that he has been located and at this stage it seems he's in a safe zone over there and not committing any illegal acts.
"And he is in fact doing what he says he's doing which is contributing in a charitable way."
It is a criminal offence for Australian residents to intentionally enter declared geographical locations and they can be jailed for 10 years.
There are declared areas in Syria and Mr Jones said if it could be found that Mr Bridgeman had entered those areas then he would face charges.
"However at this stage based on investigations in relation to where he is, it doesn't appear that he's any near those declared areas."
Mr Jones said there were a variety of offences which carried differing ranges of penalties.
"The more simple penalties can have a maximum penalty of three years (imprisonment), there are also different offences which carry a maximum penalty of 10 years.
"The most significant is if you are found guilty of being part of a terrorist organisation.
"The maximum penalty is 25 years in custody."
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Mr Jones said the government was still considering the issue of denying Australian residents who had been in declared zones the right of return to Australia.
"If you are in fact a citizen of this country they won't block or prevent your re-entry however there has been some talk, and I believed it has been enacted, whereby if you are a dual citizen they may revoke your citizenship and therefore you won't be allowed re-entry back into Australia."
Mr Jones said in the current political climate in Australia there was a huge risk that a witch-hunt may evolve and residents would be raked before courts without much evidence and subject to significant investigation and interrogation by police.
"Perhaps that could be classed as mistreatment due to the fact that these wide ranging powers in relation to these specific offences mean that people can be detained in custody for significant periods of time without the usual access to lawyers and things of that nature.
"We've seen this week that down in, I think it was Melbourne or Sydney, a young man was actually released and all his charges in relation to terrorism type offences were dropped, because given the public sentiment and the fear mongering that is created by the media, it would appear that police will now be taking... an act first, investigate later... approach to these things."
Mr Jones advised anyone who was under investigation for terrorism related charges seek legal help quickly.
"If they don't act quickly and at times with haste the potential repercussions may be damming for a lot of innocent people."