CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australian police charged a 23-year-old man with four counts of “collecting or making documents likely to facilitate terrorist acts” on Thursday following a series of raids in Australia’s second largest city of Melbourne.
The man, Adnan Karabegovic, appeared briefly in Melbourne’s Magistrate’s Court, where he did not enter a plea to the charges and did not apply for bail. The court was told Karabegovic had been living in Australia since he was a child.
He will remain in custody until his next court appearance in December. He could face up to 15 years in jail if convicted of the charges.
His arrest followed raids on Wednesday by national and state police on homes in suburban Melbourne, the capital of Victoria state.
Computer equipment, including a memory stick containing violent material, was seized along with a number of registered firearms and fake weapons, police said, although they played down the risk of an imminent attack.
“I would like to reassure people that we have not identified any immediate threats that pose immediate concerns to the safety of the community,” Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Steve Fontana said in a statement.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said there was no immediate risk to the community, although police had uncovered material suggesting an attack was being planned.
“People in the community need not fear for their safety today and tomorrow. What is clear though, is police have uncovered people with a serious intent to cause harm,” Roxon told Australian television
Australia, a staunch U.S. ally, has gradually tightened its national security laws since the September 11, 2001, airliner attacks on the United States. Under those laws, police can detain a person for up to seven days for questioning.
The Australian Federal Police declined to comment on the man’s ethnic or religious background.
The Islamic Council of Victoria said the police had briefed members of the Muslim community about the raids.
“The last thing we want is any kind of terrorist attack anywhere in the world, let alone in Australia, and it’s very reassuring that the authorities are being very vigilant in keeping our community safe,” Sherene Hassan of the Islamic Council of Victoria told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
Australia has never suffered a major peacetime attack on home soil, although 88 Australians were killed in 2002 nightclub bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali and Australia’s embassy in Jakarta was bombed in 2004.
Australian authorities have disrupted four major plots since 2000, with 23 people convicted of terrorism offences.
Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by James Grubel and Paul Tait