5 Mar 2019

Call for NZ to take 'Kiwi jihadi' Mark Taylor likely

6:45 am on 5 March 2019

New Zealand can shortly expect demands from Kurdish officials to take the imprisoned Kiwi IS fighter, Mark Taylor, off their hands.

Mark John Taylor poses a risk of carrying out a terrorist attack, the US says.

'Kiwi jihadi' Mark John Taylor was detained in December. Photo: Screenshot / 60 Minutes

The New Zealand government yesterday said it had not had such a request, and that it could not help Mr Taylor unless he sought consular help outside of Syria.

Mr Taylor was arrested in December, and told the ABC's Middle East correspondent Adam Harvey he had turned himself over to Kurdish forces when he realised life under Islamic State wasn't what he had anticipated it would be.

He said his life had become unbearable, with no food or money, and that basic services had collapsed.

Mr Harvey told Morning Report that Kurdish authorities wanted nothing to do with the western fighters now scarpering from the terrorist group - and that includes Mr Taylor.

"They've expressed to us their desire, that that's what needs to happen with these foreign fighters and the IS families, the people in the camps," he said.

"I have no idea when a formal request will be made. We'll be speaking with the Foreign Minister of Kurdistan in a couple of days so we might get some more information then.

"But I think it's safe to say that they want Mark Taylor out of here as soon as possible. He's just a burden to them."

Mr Harvey said Mr Taylor also told him he had spoken with New Zealand representatives since his arrest in December.

"He said shortly after his arrest he was spoken to by New Zealand intelligence officials on the ground here."

In the ABC's interview, Mr Taylor said he expected to spend a few years in jail if he returned to New Zealand.

But it could be closer to a lifetime. The Terrorism Suppression Act states that a person who commits a terrorist act is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life or a lesser term.

Police would likely use that Act to prosecute Mark Taylor if he did set foot back on New Zealand soil.

Police would not confirm nor go into specifics, saying any investigation or possible judicial proceedings would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

The Minister Andrew Little, who's responsible for the country's spying agencies, the Security Service and the GCSB, wasn't any more forthcoming.

"I can't get ahead of either decision to prosecute or what the consequences of a prosecution might be. Terrorism Suppression Act is one piece of legislation, there's also the Crimes Act," he said.

The Crimes Act allows prosecution of a person who commits an act or acts of terrorism outside of New Zealand, as long as that person is a New Zealand citizen.

Mr Taylor holds a New Zealand passport, despite previously burning it, and is not a citizen of any other country.

That means New Zealand cannot strip him of his citizenship, as under UN obligations a citizen cannot be left stateless.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was, however, blunt in saying he's effectively made his own bed - as the government's been clear that if people go to Syria under this pretence they can't be helped back.

She said no contact had been made with Mr Taylor since he was detained by Kurdish forces, despite his claim to have spoken to security officials.

She said she was not aware what conditions he was being kept in.

"We have no connections with the forces detaining him so it's difficult for us to provide that level of information. Obviously there is access for international journalists, so in that regard really we'd be reliant on the information that's coming out in that form," Ms Ardern said.

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