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Shadow Minister wants security authorities to travel to Spain to question alleged al Qaeda operative, Abu Dahdah.

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Thursday 4 September 2003

Shadow Minister wants security authorities to travel to Spain to question alleged al Qaeda operative, Abu Dahdah


LINDA MOTTRAM: With the lawyer f or Spain's alleged al-Qaeda chief saying that no Australians have yet interviewed his client, the Federal Opposition is now pressing for Australian officers to travel to Spain to question Abu Dahdah. 


Rafael Epstein has been speaking to Labor's Foreign Affairs Spokesman, Kevin Rudd. 


KEVIN RUDD: They are concerning allegations. If accurate, then it's important that the Australian security authorities dealing with this matter, as these are serious matters, anything concerning al-Qaeda, which is a global terrorist organisation with lethal capacity and capability, deserves immediate and serious attention and that's why we will be seeking the earliest possible briefings. 


RAFAEL EPSTEIN: The Spanish man's lawyer has said that his client is more than happy to answer any questions, that he's answered questions for investigators from other countries before. 


Do you think it's worthwhile Australian authorities spending money on an airfare and actually sending someone over there to question him directly? 


KEVIN RUDD: This is an operational matter for the Australian police and security authorities. 


However, given that this matter is now in the public domain and given that it does, based on the reports, go to an important matter of national security, we would argue that when it comes to individuals such as this, they should be having direct contact with the Australian police and security authorities so that we can get to the bottom of what's happening. 


We in the Opposition will be obtaining briefings on this matter as soon as possible from the relevant authorities here in Australia to bring ourselves up to speed on this as well. 


RAFAEL EPSTEIN: If people haven't been sent over there would you accept the judgement from the Government, if they said to you that there's just no need to send someone to Spain to question him? 


KEVIN RUDD: This is an important matter of national security. And I notice that the Attorney-General has confirmed that these matters are under review by the Attorney-General's department and relevant Australian police and security agencies. 


However, it strikes me when you are dealing with an important matter of Australian security such as this we should be obtaining first-hand information about the activities of individuals such as this and therefore it would be important in our view to ensure that all relevant information is obtained directly, but we'll be seeking further briefings on this from the Attorney-General's department and from the other relevant agencies of the Australian Federal Government. 


LINDA MOTTRAM: Labor's Foreign Affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd speaking to Rafael Epstein. 


The office of the Attorney-General, Daryl Williams, says the Government is aware of the Spanish court documents referred to, that the public can be assured that authorities are conducting ongoing investigations, but that as is usual practice in security matters, there'll be no further comment on the issue.