An Australian firebrand preacher deported from the Philippines and four other suspected jihadists appeared in a northern Australian court on Monday charged with planning to head for Syria in a 23-foot boat to fight for the Islamic State terror group.
Philippine authorities said Robert Cerantonio, also known as Musa Cerantonio, was deported in 2014 because of his suspected links to terrorists based on online videos allegedly showing him advocating jihad and urging local Muslims to support terrorists in the Middle East.
On Monday, the Cairns Magistrates Court ordered the extradition of Cerantonio and his four co-accused from Queensland state to their hometown of Melbourne to face a federal charge outlawing Australians to align themselves with foreign terrorists. Entering or preparing to enter a foreign country to engage in hostile activity is a crime in Australia punishable by life imprisonment.
Cerantonio and co-accused Shayden Thorne, Kadir Kaya, Antonio Grenata and Paul Dacre have not entered pleas.
Police allege that the defendants, aged 21 to 33, towed a half-cabin fiberglass power boat with a car 1,900 miles from Melbourne to Laura in Australia’s tropical north before they were arrested last Tuesday.
Police say they planned to travel by boat through Indonesia to the Philippines. Police have not specified how they allegedly planned to get from the Philippines to Syria.
All had their passports canceled to prevent them leaving the country to fight for terrorist groups such as the Islamic State.
Philippine authorities said Cerantonio was deported in 2014 for being an “undocumented foreign national” after the Australian government canceled his passport. He was arrested two weeks earlier in the Philippines’ central Cebu province’s Lapu-Lapu city but faced no formal charges.
Philippine police alleged Cerantonio had called for jihad online and lectured Filipino Muslims to support the Islamic State group.
Australian police said at the time that Cerantonio’s social media postings were “offensive and disturbing,” but did not violate Australia’s law.
Authorities allege Cerantonio bought the boat in the first suspected attempt by would-be foreign terrorists to leave Australia by sea.
Security officials estimate 110 Australians are fighting for the Islamic State terror group in the Middle East.