Australian Government Awaits Arrival of Former Terrorist Suspect
The Australian government anxiously awaits the return of cleared terrorist suspect Mamdouh Habib as it has to foot the $500,000 transportation bill.
After being incarcerated for three years in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, it was announced last week that Habib would not be charged for his alleged involvement with Al Qaeda concerning the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks; however, he still remains as a “person of security interest.” Habib has been expected to return to Australia in a matter of days, but negotiations between the U.S. and Australian governments have further delayed Habib’s release.
While the U.S. government has made it perfectly clear it has no desire to have Habib fly over U.S. airspace, the Australian government has had to restructure Habib’s return. The U.S. government is concerned that Habib still poses as a threat to the national security of the United States and does not want his 22-hour flight to Australia to take place within the U.S. airspace. According to Australian Attorney General, Philip Ruddock, there are no plans to restrain Habib during his flight home, but the captain of any aircraft carrying Habib could decide to restrain him for safety reasons.
The Washington Post has reported that U.S. military officials are skeptical about the decision of the Australian government to not restrain Habib, citing a possibility that Habib could leave the aircraft during refueling stops in Los Angeles or Hawaii and seek asylum.
To date, there has not been any finalization to any plans. According to reports in the Australian press, the Australian government is looking into several options, which include the consideration of commercial and private planes, a military flight over Mexico and an option for Habib to fly to London with four British terror suspects who were also released by the U.S. government; each option at the Australian taxpayer’s expense.
Habib, 48, is an Egyptian-born Sydney cab driver and is the father of four. He was detained in May 2002 after it was alleged that he had prior knowledge of terrorist attacks on or before Sept. 11, 2001 and had plotted with Al Qaeda and trained several of the Sept 11 attackers in martial arts.
According to The Washington Post, Habib has said the only evidence against him is a false confession taken by U.S. officials after he was sent to Egypt where it is alleged he was tortured.