The NSW government will crack down on a group of Islamic inmates in Australia's highest-security jail amid fears they are forming a gang behind bars
Sydney Morning Herald:
Twelve of the 37 inmates in the Super Max facility at Goulburn jail claim to be practising Muslims, including a number of Aboriginal converts, raising security fears among officials.
NSW Justice Minister John Hatzistergos said he was concerned the group, known as the Super Max Jihadists, was using religion as a cover to engage in gang activities.
"It's important when we're dealing with the worst of the worst offenders that we're not hoodwinked into thinking they've had some sort of cathartic experience because they've taken up religion," Mr Hatzistergos said.
But he denied they were being targeted because of their religion.
"We don't have an issue relating to people's race and religion," he said.
"We do have an issue where it potentially threatens our safety and security. That's when we won't tolerate it."
Mr Hatzistergos said the men may be separated and moved around the prison system, while any money entering their accounts would be closely monitored.
Visits, phone calls and mail may also be restricted.
Pictures of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden have been confiscated from cells, and prison authorities have seen some converts kneel before and kiss the hand of gang leader, Bassam Hamzy, who is serving 21 years for murder.
The gang members, with shaven heads and long beards, include convicted murderers Wassim El Assaad, Rabeeh Mawas and Emad Sleiman.
Several Aboriginal inmates in the Super Max unit, including rapist Dudley Aslett and murderers Vester Fernando and Ronald Priestley, are converts to Islam.
Opposition justice spokesman Greg Smith accused the government of failing to act after first becoming aware of the religious conversions more than a year ago.
"To think that terrorist groups may well be formed in the prison system is something that our authorities should have done something about," he said.
"The normal Muslim members of our society are peaceful people who hate this sort of stuff, but yet these characters are being allowed by the government to meet together ... and perhaps to plan together."
He said it was time the government separated the group and disciplined them if they engaged in gang behaviour.
NSW Corrective Services commissioner Ron Woodham vowed to break up the gang.
"We're not going to let it go any further, we're going to break it up, crash it, totally destroy the network," he said.
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