Locals gathering for morning prayers
at the Melbourne’s East Brunswick Mosque today are likely to spy a
white Ford parked across the road. Inside will be the ASIO agents
who’ve been staking out the mosque and the homes of a number of the
faithful for many months. It’s here that ASIO believes the busiest
group of Islamic activists in Melbourne is based. Last month, ASIO and
police raided several homes in the area, in raids seen as pre-emptive strikes carried out before the suspects got too busy.

So
far, the sanctity of the mosque doesn’t appear to have been breached by
ASIO. According to locals who spoke to Crikey, the men raided last week
were an earnest group agitating for Sharia law; quiet, polite and not
regarded as dangerous by their neighbours. But, according to some media
reports, during the raids ASIO obtained videotapes of landmark
buildings including Flinders Street station. And there have been
unsourced claims of training camps in the country and incriminating
taped conversations.

Restrictive secrecy legislation
protecting ASIO from scrutiny and allowing for secret detention of
suspects without notice makes attempts by the media to get to the
bottom of the story nearly impossible. Are these people innocent but
devout misfits, or radicals hatching a murderous plot? It depends on
which brand of media conjecture you buy. And that’s the way ASIO likes
it.

Last Saturday, ASIO advertised for an assistant director
(surveillance) based in Melbourne. While Melbourne isn’t London or
Madrid, last night’s events ensure the successful applicant will have a
busy time.

Peter Fray

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