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Thursday, 30 June 1994
Page: 2437


Senator SHORT —My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer the minister to Senator Bolkus's response to my question yesterday on Mr Antonios Obeid. The minister stated in respect of Mr Antonios Obeid:

he is a person about whom there has not . . . been a request for extradition from any government. Of course, if we received a request we would respond to it and the Attorney-General would consider it.

Will the minister confirm Senator Bolkus's statement?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I have no more up-to-date information on this matter than when I last responded to a question on it. Senator Bolkus has the up-to-date information. He has portfolio carriage of this and I ask him to respond to the question.


Senator BOLKUS —I did say that yesterday. I said so on the advice of my department. It had, I am informed, been cleared with Foreign Affairs. The advice just before I came into the chamber was that in respect of Mr Antonios Obeid there had not been a request for extradition made. There has in fact been, I am further told, a request made with respect to a Mr Jean Chahine, who is a different person from Mr Jean Obeid, I presume. With respect to Mr Jean Chahine, my advice is that there has been a request for arrest and/or extradition. I am still trying to clarify whether the extradition request has also been formally made. I am further advised that with respect to extradition out of the Lebanon there may not be an extradition treaty with Lebanon and there are no international conventions to which both countries are signatories which will allow an extradition request to proceed.

  On the basis of that, the Attorney-General is obviously looking at what further action can be taken with respect to that request. With respect to Antonios Obeid, my advice even just before question time today was that there has not been a request for extradition of that person though, with respect to Mr Jean Chahine, there is a request for arrest and/or extradition. I am still trying to clarify whether a request for extradition has come in as well.


Senator SHORT —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In light of that answer by the minister, that there has not been a request for extradition, I refer to a letter from the Ambassador of the Lebanon to me today, in relation to Mr Chahine and Mr Obeid, stating:

  To the best of my knowledge, the competent judicial authorities in Lebanon made a preliminary approach, through the appropriate channels, to the various foreign governments, including Australia, in order to initiate the necessary procedures for the arrest and possible extradition to Lebanon of the afore mentioned persons. The request to Australia was forwarded on 4 May, 1994.

.I seek leave to have the letter incorporated in Hansard and I ask the minister again: why has he this time further misled the Senate?

  Leave granted.

  The document read as follows—

Embassy of Lebanon in Australia

The Ambassador

No. 574

F.146/1

Canberra, 30th June, 1994.

Senator Jim Short

Parliament House

CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Senator Short,

  Referring to your letter of today, kindly be advised that warrants have been issued for the arrest of several suspects in the cases of the murder of Danny Chamoun and his family and the bombing of the Lady of Salvation Church in Lebanon. Quite a few of the suspects have fled the country, among them a certain Mr Antonios Elias Obeid known also as Antonios Elias Elias and/or Tony Obeid and a Jean J. Chahin. Both are known to be in Australia.

  To the best of my knowledge, the competent judicial authorities in Lebanon made a preliminary approach, through the appropriate channels, to the various foreign governments, including Australia, in order to initiate the necessary procedures for the arrest and possible extradition to Lebanon of the afore mentioned persons. The request to Australia was forwarded on 4 May, 1994.

Yours sincerely,

Latif Abul-Husn

Ambassador of Lebanon


Senator BOLKUS —All I can do is give Senator Short the advice which has been forwarded to me. That advice from the AFP was cleared just before question time today. Any requests for arrest would go to the AFP. The advice from the AFP is the advice I gave earlier on—that the AFP has no knowledge of any request for extradition of Mr Antonios Obeid. On the contrary, it has requests in respect of Mr Chahine. As I said, whether they are just requests for arrest, or requests for both arrest and extradition, is what I am seeking to clarify. I am not sure but, as I say, I can only go on the advice of this government's officials, not on that of other governments.