The accused terror recruiter did not respond when the magistrate asked him to enter a guilty or not guilty plea

An accused Australian jihadi has refused to respond to a magistrate as he ordered the former rapper to stand trial for terrorism offences.

Once branded as Australia’s most-wanted alleged terrorist, Neil Christopher Prakash appeared in Melbourne Magistrates Court via video link on Thursday. 

Wearing a black long-sleeve shirt, Prakash sat silently in the prison room and stared straight ahead as Magistrate Rohan Lawrence spoke.

‘Mr Prakash, can you see and hear me?’ the magistrate asked.

The accused did not respond despite doing so with his lawyers earlier. 

The accused terror recruiter also did not respond when the magistrate asked him to enter a guilty or not guilty plea to the terrorism-related offences, which include engaging in hostile activity in a foreign state, being a member of a terrorist organisation and advocating terrorism.

‘I noted that you have not responded so I have entered a plea of not guilty,’ the magistrate said. 

‘In relation to the six charges, I am satisfied a jury could convict you on those six charges,’ he said. 

The accused terror recruiter did not respond when the magistrate asked him to enter a guilty or not guilty plea

The accused terror recruiter did not respond when the magistrate asked him to enter a guilty or not guilty plea

Prakash was sentenced to seven years imprisonment before being deported back to Australia in December 2022

Prakash was sentenced to seven years imprisonment before being deported back to Australia in December 2022

The court heard Prakash 'no longer held the violent extremist views that he used to'

The court heard Prakash ‘no longer held the violent extremist views that he used to’ 

Mr Lawrence handed down his decision to commit Prakash to stand trial before a Supreme Court jury after four days of evidence from former friends and counter-terrorism police.

Prakash left Melbourne and travelled to Syria in 2013 to join Islamic State before he was captured by Turkish authorities while fleeing across the border in 2016.

Prakash was convicted by a Turkish court in 2019 on charges to the effect of being a member of a terrorist organisation.

Investigators are yet to determine whether there is an equivalent charge under Australian law. 

He was sentenced to seven years imprisonment before being deported back to Australia in December 2022.

Earlier on Thursday the court finished hearing evidence from the Australian Federal Police’s joint counter-terrorism team case manager Detective Senior Constable Dennis Scott.

Defence lawyer Liz Morgan asked Det Scott about the evolution in Prakash’s beliefs following his deportation to Australia in 2022. 

Det Scott told the court that while he has observed changes in Prakash’s hardline views, he remains staunch about not recognising the criminal justice system.

Det Scott said he genuinely believes Prakash has ‘moderated his views’ after he and his team spent time talking with the alleged terrorist.

‘The discussions I had with Prakash and the time we spent (together), he verbalised he no longer held the violent extremist views that he used to,’ he said.

‘He is still conservative in relation to Islam but still can articulate an argument.’

Det Scott told the court said it would be highly likely Prakash would have expressed this change through private messages to others after arriving in Syria and realising the struggle.

‘For those who travel to conflict zones, when they arrive and understand the realities are very different, that can be a trigger that changes their view,’ Det Scott said.

‘Anyone in that conflict zone that espouses views opposite to IS would put themselves in grave danger.’

The detective indicated Prakash expressed the danger of other jihadists in Australian prisons finding out the departure from his hardline beliefs.

‘For someone who had previously held these views and changed their ways, they would no longer be viewed as true Muslims by those who continue to hold those same views,’ he said. 

Prakash could potentially have charges against him ruled out as the defence attempts to invoke a legal concept known as double jeopardy where a court is unable to deal with a person for a charge they have previously been dealt with in another jurisdiction.

Prakash will face the Supreme Court on June 3.

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