LAST week, Bosscher Lawyers, acting for Toowoomba teenager Oliver Bridgeman were advised the Australian Government had cancelled his passport.
Mr Bridgeman was reported missing by his parents in March 2015, after failing to return home from a trip to Bali.
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has acknowledged Mr Bridgeman went to Syria, where he has been undertaking aid work for a charity organisation called “Live Updates From Syria”. ASIO said videos uploaded by Mr Bridgeman showed him handing out food parcels to refugees.
Brisbane Criminal Lawyers at Bosscher Lawyers can confirm Mr Bridgeman had immediate plans to return home to Australia, and through his lawyers, had communicated to the Australian Federal Police his willingness to co-operate fully upon his return.
There is absolutely no evidence Mr Bridgeman had engaged – or ever intended to engage – in any unlawful acts while in Syria.
The Australian Government, in cancelling Mr Bridgeman’s passport, has provided no evidence whatsoever that he poses any threat to anyone. Yet, they claim if he continued to hold an Australian passport, he “would be likely to engage in conduct that might prejudice the security of Australia or a foreign country” and that its cancellation would “prevent him from engaging in the conduct”.
Alex Jones, for Bosscher Lawyers, said the decision was “nonsensical” and greatly distressing to the teenager’s parents.
In advising Mr Bridgeman of the cancellation of his passport, the Australian Government has said it would “consider” issuing him with a “limited validity travel document” to come home. He has been told to surrender his cancelled passport to the nearest diplomatic mission or consular post – the closest being in Turkey. Mr Bridgeman has no legal way to cross the border from Syria to Turkey. He has been advised that if he does so with his cancelled passport, he faces ten years in prison.
“The Australian Government has stranded a Queensland teenager in a foreign country,” Mr Jones said.
“This has happened at a time when Mr Bridgeman was organising to come home and had been communicating and fully co-operating with authorities.
“We do not understand the point of this. Mr Bridgeman has nothing to hide. His parents have co-operated with authorities during their son’s time in Syria and are devastated that he now has no means of returning home to them.
“Mr Bridgeman has been in Syria carrying out humanitarian work. He spends his time handing out food and clothing to some of the world’s least fortunate.”
Bosscher Lawyers will file an appeal against the decision to cancel Mr Bridgeman’s passport on Monday, 29 February 2016.
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Brisbane QLD 4000