AUSTRALIAN terrorist Neil Prakash is due to appear in a Turkish court tonight to face a terrorism charge carrying a potential 20-year jail term.
Melbourne-born jihadi Prakash is listed to appear for trial in the Kilis Criminal Court near the Syrian border, close to where he was arrested trying to sneak into Turkey on October 24 last year.
Prakash has been charged by Turkish authorities with being a member of the terrorist organisation Islamic State, or DAESH.
That particular charge in Turkey means he is accused of fighting against the Turkish state, seeking to bring down the Turkish government, and crimes against humanity.
If convicted, he faces a potential jail term of more than 20 years.
Australian authorities, who tipped off Turkish security forces and police when he tried to flee Syria last year, have applied for his extradition, but his return to Australia would have to wait until after his Turkish court proceedings, and any potential jail term, were completed.
An arrest warrant issued by the Australian Federal Police in 2015 said police wanted Prakash to face charges of being a member of a terrorist organisation and “incursions into a foreign state with the intention of engaging in hostile activities’’ – essentially becoming a foreign fighter.
Prakash, a Muslim convert from Melbourne, spent the years 2013-2016 in Iraq and Syria working as a prolific recruiter, encouraging foreign fighters to join IS or carry out attack in their homelands in the west including Australia.
He also provided logistical advice on how they could travel to join the war in Iraq and Syr
ia, ran multiple social media accounts urging jihad, and took part in propaganda videos.
He has also admitted to the court that he trained with weapons at an IS camp in al-Raqqa in Syria, and joined the front line of the war against the PKK/PYD Kurdish forces who are backed by the anti-IS western coalitio
n, which includes Australia.
He has been held in a high-security prison in Gaziantep, about 50km away from Kilis, since his arrest on October 24 when he crossed the border into Turkey, armed with false identity papers.
He told police who arrested him that he had married a Dutch jihadi bride while in Syria and that he fathered two children — both of whom would be eligible for Australian citizenship.
The Australian Government is providing basic consular assistance for Prakash, and has sent officials from the embassy in Ankara to visit him in jail
“I was the son of a Buddhist family and later I chose becoming a Muslim while I was in Cambodia as a result of viewing videos posted by DAESH on the internet,’’ Prakash told police, in evidence submitted to a previous court hearing in Kilis.
“Later I decided to go to Syria to join DAESH. I discovered on the internet that I could get false passport and ID from Malaysia in order to get to Syria.’
In the previous hearing, Prakash said he spent two weeks doing “religious training’’ with IS in al-Raqqa where he taught himself how to use a Kalashnikov weapon.
He then joined the front line near the Syrian city of Kobane.
“We fought for about two weeks. I used Kalashnikov guns. I don’t know if I killed any members of the PYD/PKK in the fights I took part in.
“While fighting in Kobane I sustained injuries to my arm and chest as a result of the bomb the PYD/PKK used against us.’’
Injured and disillusioned, Prakash has previously told the court he went on the run for six months after being treated at a medical clinic, then tried to cross the border with a woman and three children after paying a people-smuggler $4000.
But he was betrayed by someone close to him, who tipped off Australian security agencies, who in turn tipped off the Turks.