Australia: official says considering a Lebanese extradition request for convicted terrorist

The government is considering an extradition request from Lebanon for a former airline baggage handler facing trial in Sydney next year charged with inciting terrorism, an official said Thursday.

But Bilal Khazal, a 34-year-old former Qantas Airways employee, will have to face justice in Australia before he can be returned to Lebanon where he has been tried in absentia and sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment for terrorism offenses.

"If the decision is made to extradite Bilal Khazal to Lebanon, he will not be surrendered until he has been tried on the Australian charges and he has served any sentence of imprisonment which may be imposed in connection with those charges," Justice Ministry spokesman Brad Burke said.

Khazal will stand trial in the New South Wales state Supreme Court in April next year after pleading not guilty to two counts of inciting terrorism. He faces 15 years' imprisonment if convicted.

The prosecution alleges Khazal compiled a jihad guide entitled "Provisions On The Rules of Jihad" that explained that assassins should have a terrorist psychology, quick wits and a strong ideology in order to kill infidels.

The extradition request applies to a 10-year sentence imposed on Khazal in 2003 after he was convicted in absentia for participating in attacks on U.S. and British businesses in Lebanon, Burke said. He could not say when the formal request was lodged.

"The request is being considered in accordance with provisions of the Extradition Act," Burke said.

A Lebanese military court in February sentenced Khazal in absentia to another 15 years' imprisonment for terrorism-related offenses, Burke said.

The convictions related to possession of weapons and explosives, forging an Australian passport, and forming a group and planning acts that endangered state security. Khazal's Sydney lawyer, Adam Houda, said he would be surprised if Australia agreed to the extradition. Houda said the military court that tried Khazal had not been able to establish a prima facie case and was a "kangaroo court", reported AP.