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Australia decides to toughen parole laws after fatal siege

The government agreed to toughen parole laws after a gunman killed a receptionist and wounded three police officers after being released early from prison


Australian Federal Police search an apartment in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, June 9, 2017. Australian police on Friday raided homes in Melbourne and took three men into custody as part of their investigation into a siege earlier this week in which a gunman killed an apartment building receptionist and wounded police officers, officials said.

Mal Fairclough/AAP Image via AP

By Rod McGuirk
Associated Press

CANBERRA, Australia — Australian government leaders on Friday agreed to toughen parole laws in response to a siege this week in which a gunman who once trained with Muslim extremists killed an apartment building receptionist and wounded three police officers months after being released early from prison.

Federal and state government leaders agreed at a summit to change Australia’s laws so that extremists were less likely to be freed on bail when charged or on parole after serving a minimum prison sentence.

“There will be a presumption that neither bail nor parole will be granted to those who have demonstrated support for or have links to terrorist activity,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters.

“This presumption is a vital element in keeping these people who are a threat to our safety, and our safety of our families, off the streets,” Turnbull said.

Yacqub Khayre, 29, shot and killed the receptionist, a Chinese-born Australian man, Kai Hao, 36, at an apartment building in the Melbourne’s suburb of Brighton on Monday. He took a woman hostage in two-hour siege before police shot and killed him.

The hostage was not hurt, but one officer was shot in the neck and ear and two others suffered hand wounds. Two of the officers remained hospitalized Friday, but Victoria state Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said their injuries were not life-threatening.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the violence. Police called it a terrorist act but said there was no evidence Khayre had planned the violence or had accomplices.

Khayre, a Somali-born refugee, was released from prison in December on parole after serving part of a sentence for violent crimes including aggravated burglary. While those crimes were unrelated to extremism, he had been acquitted in 2010 of plotting a suicide attack at a Sydney army base a year earlier. Turnbull said that during that trial, it was established that Khayre had trained with extremists in Somalia.

“With the changes that we have agreed to implement today, it is inconceivable that he would be given parole,” Turnbull said.

The states toughened their laws last year so that prisoners convicted of terrorism offenses who were not rehabilitated could be kept behind bars after serving their sentences.

Earlier on Friday, 150 police and secret service agents raided three Melbourne homes and detained three men suspected of supplying Khayre with two shotguns, including a sawed-off weapon that he fired in Monday’s violence.

A 32-year-old man had been arrested but not yet charged, and a 31-year-old man and his 51-year-old father had been detained for questioning, a police statement said.

The men are not suspected of posing a national security threat, Patton said. “We do not have any links between them and terrorism,” he told reporters.

The raids aimed to “ensure there is no continued threat to the Victorian public in regards to terrorism,” he added.