Government is about to approach the courts to have a number of T&T nationals designated as terrorists and will also very shortly present to Parliament new legislation to deal with people alleged to be terrorist fighters, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said yesterday.
"The country deserves action and enforcement and that's exactly what we intend to do," Al-Rawi said in the Senate.
He gave details of how Government plans to treat with T&T terrorist fighters and such persons returning from overseas, in reply to Opposition Senator Wade Mark's queries on the issue.
Mark sought details concerning the future of nationals who've gone overseas and are reportedly fighting with the Islamic State (Isis) terrorist network. He asked if Government intends to invoke laws in respect of citizens with proven links to Isis and who wish to return home.
Al-Rawi said two key pieces of legislation relevant to people proven to be linked to Isis and who wish to return were the Anti Terrorism Act (chp 12.07) and Proceeds of Crime Act (chp 11.27). He said his powers as AG are restricted to sections 22b, 36 and 37 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
"But other key legislative tools under these two acts are available to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Judiciary," he noted.
"Where someone is proved to be linked to Isis, this Government will invoke the provisions of the law that are within the discretion of the Executive to apply–regardless of whether the person has already left the country or whether they wish to return."
The AG said in circumstances, such as described in Mark's question, of citizens linked to Isis wishing to return, Section 22B of the Anti-Terrorism Act will be invoked. He said Section 22B (1) allows him to apply to a judge for an order under section 22B(3) to designate an individual or an entity and to freeze their assets. Al-Rawi said Section 22B (1-b-ii) allows such applications to be made in respect of entities or individuals where there are reasonable grounds "to believe an entity/individual is knowingly acting on behalf of, at the direction of, or in association with an entity designated as a terrorist entity by the United Nations Security Council."
Al-Rawi noted Government had successfully invoked Section 22B in the first-ever application to the High Court regarding Kareem Ibrahim. That application was filed in November 2015 and a court order was granted shortly after listing Ibrahim (as a terrorist) and freezing his assets.
"The courts' guidance in this matter will now greatly assist the State in charting a course for the various types of applications available under Section 22B."
Al-Rawi said other sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act (36-37) focusing on terrorist property will also be applied where "circumstances so dictate." These allow the DPP to apply to a judge for an order to restrain property that may ultimately be made the subject of a forfeiture order. Sections allow Government to request a judge to appoint a person to take control/manage/deal with the property according to judicial orders. Anyone possessing the property must give it to the appointed manager.
Mark asked the AG about reports of "hundreds" of T&T fighters with Isis returning to T&T if Government was monitoring such people and whether it would invoke the Anti-Terrorism (22B1) Act in respect of these returnees.
Al-Rawi said there was no information of "hundreds" of T&T nationals, though there may be anecdotal information, but Government must be driven by evidence.
"The matter of foreign terrorist fighters is being addressed with all seriousness by all security apparatus, with all foreign partners, particularly foreign states, by Europol and Interpol. That has led to the monitoring of a number of people in active and real time circumstances," Al-Rawi added.
"The Anti-Terrorism desk of the AG's office, in co-ordination with the National Security Ministry, is about to approach the courts in relation to a number of persons for Section 22B (Anti-Terrorism Act) designations."
Mark asked the precise number of nationals fighting with Isis at this time and about the resulting threat to T&T from such people.
Al-Rawi said, "A precise number is an incapability, as one relies on anecdotal information usually originating from a different country where the information has to be specifically verified. ... I wouldn't be in a position to provide a number. Suffice to say, this is a multi-dimensional treatment that's being applied."
The AG was also asked by Opposition Senator Gerald Hadeed about a number of alleged terrorists travelling to Venezuela and returning to T&T via porous borders. Al-Rawi said National Security Council agencies are tracking all issues and Government has deepened its intelligence sharing with the Venezuelan government and border patrols.