“High-risk prisoner” Philippines set to deport Islamic convert

Extremist to go free in Australia

Lindsay Murdoch - South-East Asia Correspondent


Philippine authorities are treating Australian religious extremist Musa Cerantonio as a “high-risk and high-value” prisoner, but he is set to walk free after his imminent deportation to Melbourne.

Mr Cerantonio, considered to be one of the most influential Islamic preachers in support of Middle-East jihadists, has been held alone in a cell in an immigration jail inside Metro Manila’s police camp at Taguig City, which also holds many of the Philippines’ top security prisoners.

“He is a VIP ? a high-risk and high-value prisoner,” a guard at the jail told Fairfax Media.

But after the deportation of Mr Cerantonio from the Philippines for immigration violations ? possibly by Saturday [19 July] ? he will not be taken into custody because there are no warrants for his arrest in Australia.

He will, however, remain a “person of interest” for federal police investigating terrorism and violations of the Foreign Incursions and Recruitment Act, which outlaws encouraging others to join foreign paramilitary forces or insurgencies, according to police sources.

Mr Cerantonio, 29, a convert from Catholicism to Islam at the age of 17, was arrested last Friday [11 July] in an apartment on the island of Cebu with a Filipina fashion designer who claims she is his wife.

His arrest was prompted by Australian authorities cancelling his Australian passport, leaving him without valid travel documentation in the Philippines.

Police had been monitoring him in collaboration with Australian agencies for months, including a visit he made to the Muslim-majority region of Mindanao, a hot-bed for a decades-old Muslim insurgency where Islamic fighters are linked to al-Qaeda.

Mr Cerantonio spent Wednesday [16 July] in his cell as category-three typhoon Rammasun pummelled the jail.

After Mr Cerantonio was arrested in a predawn raid, he refused to answer questions from police, who seized 11 SIM cards, microchips, and a computer from his luggage, which are being forensically examined.

Mr Cerantonio was visited by a brother from Australia on Monday [14 July] and officials from the Australian embassy on Wednesday, jail guards said.

Philippine Bureau of Immigration spokesperson Elaine Tan told Fairfax Media that Philippine authorities want to deport Mr Cerantonio as soon as

Media requests to interview him have been denied.

Embassy officials in Manila are arranging temporary documents so he can be flown to Australia. Without a valid passport, he needs such documents to leave.

From: http://www.smh.com.au/national/religious-extremist-musa-cerantonio-set-t...