PH deports alleged Aussie jihadist supporter without charges
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Suspected terrorist Robert Edward Cerantonio was sent back to his home country on Tuesday night, July 22, 11 days after he was captured by Philippine authorities.
In a statement, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said Cerantonio took a 9:10 pm Philippine Airlines flight to Melbourne, Australia. Police said he would not be charged.
Escorted by 4 BI intelligence officers in his flight, Cerantonio arrived in Melbourne Wednesday morning, July 23. The city is also his place of birth.
"Cerantonio was met by Australian authorities upon his arrival this morning where he is set to undergo arrival formalities for deportees," said lawyer and BI spokesperson Elaine Tan.
The 29-year-old Australian national, also known as Musa Cerantonio, is a Christian convert to Islam. Using social media, he is said to have urged Muslims to join the jihad in Syria and Iraq.
A source earlier told Rappler that Cerantonio has been staying in the Philippines for nearly a year now. (READ: ISIS online cheerleader Musa Cerantonio spotted in PH)
The report was validated by his arrest in Lapu-Lapu City on July 11, a day after his deportation order was issued by the BI. (READ: Australian ISIS supporter nabbed in Cebu)
He was arrested for being an undocumented foreign national in the Philippines. He was later transferred to a Philippine Bureau of Immigration facility in the National Capital Region. Cerantonio's passport was cancelled by Australia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"Mr Cerantonio's known social media postings are considered offensive and disturbing, however, have been assessed as not breaching Australian law to this point," Australian Federal Police (AFP) said in a statement.
Cerantonio is a Christian convert to Islam who’s using social media effectively to encourage terrorism and urge Muslims to join the jihad in Syria and Iraq.
Philippine and Australian sources earlier told Rappler that the Melbourne-born Cerantonio has been in the Philippines for nearly a year. He earlier tweeted he was leaving the Philippines to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
"The AFP will continue to monitor and assess this material for any breaches of Australian law into the future," the Australian Federal Police statement said.
Philippines officials have said Cerantonio was arrested at the request of the Australian government and was deported because Canberra cancelled his passport, making him an illegal alien.
Australian police said only that Cerantonio had been deported by the Philippine authorities "as a result of invalid travel documentation." He was served a warrant for deportation by Cebu regional police.
Philippine police said they had been monitoring Cerantonio's activities since February when he arrived in Cebu, the country's largest metropolis outside Manila.
The Philippines has a large Muslim minority in the southern region of Mindanao, a hotbed for a decades-old Muslim insurgency and where Islamic militants linked to Al-Qaeda also operate.
But Cebu's police commander, Chief Superintendent Prudencio Banas, has said there was no evidence linking the Australian to any terror act.
He lived with a Philippine woman and moved around Cebu until his arrest at a one-room apartment near the airport. The woman, Joean Navarro Montayre, from Candoni, Negros Occidental, was also arrested for estafa charges.
'Just a fraud'
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop however tagged Cerantonio as a fake jihadist, despite reports describing him as an influential propagandist. (READ: Jihadist supporter Cerantonio 'a fraud', says Austalia FM)
"It seems that he is just a fraud, because he was saying that he was fighting in Syria and Iraq when all the time he was holed up in a flat in the Philippines," she said.
Australia has expressed deep concern that about 150 Australians, some of them dual nationals, were learning the "terrorist trade" fighting alongside Sunni militants in Iraq and Syria.
The government has confirmed that two Australians, including an 18-year-old, have been behind deadly suicide bombings in the Iraq and Syria conflicts, without providing further details. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com