Turkey convicts Australian-born IS militant on terror charge

A woman walks to the court in Kilis, southeastern Turkey, Friday, March 15, 2019. The court convicted Neil Prakash, a former rapper from Melbourne of belonging to a terror group and sentenced him to more than seven years in prison. Prakash has been in a Turkish prison since 2016 when he was arrested near the Syrian border for attempting to cross into Turkey with fake documents. He had featured in IS videos, been linked to several attack plans in Australia and has urged lone wolf attacks against the United States. (AP Photo/Mehmet Guzel)

A Turkish court has convicted an Australian-born Islamic State militant of belonging to a terror group and sentenced him to more than seven years in prison

KILIS, Turkey — A Turkish court on Friday convicted an Australian-born Islamic State militant of belonging to a terror group and sentenced him to more than seven years in prison.

Neil Prakash, a former rapper from Melbourne, has been in a Turkish prison since 2016 when he was arrested near the Syrian border for attempting to cross into Turkey with fake documents. Turkish prosecutors said the 27-year-old had illegally crossed into Syria in 2013 where he joined IS.

He had featured in IS videos, been linked to several attack plans in Australia and has urged lone wolf attacks against the United States.

Delivering its verdict on Friday, the Criminal Court in the southern city of Kilis found Prakash guilty of IS membership and sentenced him to seven years and six months in prison. The court said he could be released in two-and-a-half years under Turkish law, however. The court rejected a request for his release pending the outcome of an appeal.

Prakash did not attend the hearing in person but took part in the proceedings through a teleconference system.

"I used to be a member of Daesh but I am no longer," he said, referencing another widely used term for IS.

He insisted that he was forced to feature in IS videos and photographs and that they were filmed against his will.

Prakash's lawyer argued that his client had traveled to Syria to learn about Islam and to help people, and never intended to aid a terror organization, according to court papers.

Australia has stripped Prakash, who has Fijian and Cambodian parents, of his citizenship for extremist links.

It also wants Turkey to extradite Prakash, who faces allegations of inciting a terror plot in his home state of Victoria.

He faces a potential life sentence if convicted in Australia of terrorism offenses.

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