A grandmother with diabetes and arthritis, an English teacher, a Lakemba cleric and a surfie who converted to Islam are included alongside members of the “Terror Nine” on a secret alert list drawn up by the US embassy in Canberra.
A cable sent to its embassies worldwide recommends that mother-of-six Rabiah Hutchinson, 58, and her daughter Rahmah Wisudo, 28, be placed on a “no-fly list” because of their alleged links to radical Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi, who has ties to an offshoot of terrorist group al-Qaeda.
Two of Ms Hutchinson’s sons – Abdullah Mustaffa bin Abdul Rahim bin Ayub, 25, and Illias bin Abdul Rahim bin Ayub, 23 – are on a recommended special “selectee” watch list.
Lawyer Stephen Hopper said yesterday that Abdullah and Illias were “both very nice young men” and that all but one or two of the 23 Australians on the US list would be surprised to learn of their inclusion.
“It seems a very broad brush approach to me,” Mr Hopper said.
He either represents or has represented 11 of the 23 and said most were just family people wanting to be with their children.
Mudgee-born Ms Hutchinson, who has lived in Lakemba since being brought back to Australia from Iran by ASIO in 2003, has travelled through strongholds of al-Qaeda, including Afghanistan.
She converted to Islam after travelling as a 19-year-old backpacker to Indonesia where she became a supporter of Islamic clerics Abu Bakar Bashir and Abdullah Sungkar.
Two decades later the clerics would go on to form the al-Qaeda linked group Jemaah Islamiah, which orchestrated the 2002 Bali bombings.
Ms Hutchinson has never faced terrorism charges and denies any links t”They’ve got it wrong. I am not important. I’m just a granny with diabetes and arthritis. What are they so worried about?” she said in 2008.
The embassy cable recommended Hutchinson be placed on the no-fly list “due to her demonstrated connections with al-Qaeda” and the wishes of the group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula “to recruit females for future attacks”. “While we have every confidence Australian authorities can and will monitor her activities and work to prevent her from departing Australia, her past history and association with al-Aulaqi merits her being on a no-fly status,” the cable said.
Her two sons, Abdullah and Illias, were arrested in 2006 in Yemen along with Sydney man Marek Samulski and accused of being part of an al-Qaeda cell running guns to Somalia.
They were held in a Yemeni jail for almost eight weeks until they were cleared and deported.
Mr Samulski, 40, is also on the no-fly list.
Former Australian soldier Melanie Brown, 34, who is married to convicted French terrorist Willie Brigitte, is also on the list along with mother-of-two, English teacher Shyloh Jayne Giddins, 35.
Ms Giddins was arrested in Yemen in May last year and deported to Australia after her passport was cancelled on advice from ASIO.
ASIO said her “extremist interpretation of Islam” and her activities in Yemen children – Aminah, 5, and Omar, 8 – who were left in the care of her housemate after her arrest.
Ms Giddins was not charged and Mr Hopper said there is no suggestion she had done anything wrong.
Also on the recommended no-fly list are husband and wife Khalid Vetter, 39, and Philippines national Maryam Santos, 39, who currently live in Yemen.
“She is a Filipina located out of her country making her an attractive target for AQAP to deploy against the US and allied interests,” the US cable reads.
Mr Hopper said: “To say that Maryam Santos is a threat is nonsense, She has three or four children and to say she would leave them without a mother is ridiculous.”
Mirsad Mulahalilovic, 39, and Khaled Sharrouf, 30, who pleaded guilty to their roles as part of the “Terror Nine’ who conspired to prepare for terrorist attacks between 2004 and 2005, are both recommended to be on the watch list.
Both men have since been released from jail.
The US cable recommends he be placed on the no-fly list.
Lakemba cleric Sheikh Abdel Salam Zoud, who had been said by French authorities to be an important contact for Willie Brigitte, is recommended to be on the watch list. Sheikh Zoud has said he had no connection to any terror organisation and has insisted he’d only met Willie Brigitte once.