June 7, 2017 / 12:39 AM / 2 months ago

Australia flags tougher parole laws in wake of Melbourne siege

Australian police stand at the site of a siege at the Buckingham Serviced Apartments in Melbourne, Australia, June 6, 2017. AAP/Julian Smith/via REUTERS

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Australian government signalled a drive to reform parole laws on Wednesday, including a ban on parole for violent offenders who have any links to extremism, after a deadly siege claimed by the Islamic State group.

Police shot dead gunman Yacqub Khayre, who they said had a long criminal history, on Monday night after he killed a man in an apartment block in Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city, and held a woman hostage for several hours.

Attorney-General George Brandis said it was clear that Khayre, 29, who was granted parole in November after being convicted over a violent home invasion, should never have been released from prison.

"I think the public are entitled to expect that people who present that level of danger to the public, and who have a terrorism background, there should be a presumption against bail or parole except in a very clear case," Brandis told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio on Wednesday.

Brandis and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull both launched stinging criticism of state governments, which are responsible for parole laws, in the wake of the Melbourne attack.

Police are treating the siege as an "act of terrorism" after Islamic State claimed one of its fighters was responsible.

Senior officials said Khayre had been acquitted of a plot to attack a Sydney army base in 2009. He was also accused of travelling to Somalia, where he was born, to seek a religious ruling in support of the planned 2009 attack.

Brandis said Turnbull would push state leaders to alter who is responsible for parole decisions at a meeting of state and federal governments on Friday, including having decisions made by state attorneys general rather than parole boards in cases involving extremism.

Australia passed laws last year allowing the indefinite detention of anyone convicted of terror-related offences if authorities believed that person posed a threat after their release.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said Khayre had been complying with his bail conditions, which included drug testing and a curfew, before Monday's siege. However, Andrews said he would consider changes to parole laws.

Khayre's attack echoed a deadly 2014 siege in a Sydney cafe, during which several people were held hostage for more than 17 hours by a gunman who was on bail after being charged with sexual assault and being an accessory to murder.

A coroner last month criticised "inadequate" opposition to the gunman's application for bail in that case. New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, introduced stricter bail laws in response to the Sydney siege.

Writing By Jane Wardell; Editing by Paul Tait

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