Sunday, August 12, 2007

Bethlehem Council 'Terror link'

From The Australian, by Imre Salusinszky, NSW political reporter August 11, 2007 ....

A PLAN by Marrickville Council in Sydney's inner-west to establish a sister-city relationship with Bethlehem could founder because of alleged links between members of a proposed civic delegation and terror groups.

An internal memorandum by Israeli officials in Tel Aviv, where the five-person delegation recently lodged visa applications to visit Marrickville, warns that the Jewish community "might be adversely affected by the applicants' presence in Australia". The delegation, which has been invited to a gala dinner in Marrickville on August 25 to sign the twin-city agreement, includes two members of Bethlehem Council, mayor Victor Batarseh and councillor Anton Salman.

The immigration note on the visa applications says Jewish groups "may be offended by DrBatarseh's campaign alliance with Hamas and both his and MrSalman's readiness to participate in an institution that also includes representatives of the terrorist organisations Hamas and Islamic Jihad"....

...A spokesman for Marrickville Council said the reception was still planned to go ahead, pending approval of the visas. All five delegates will be subject to security checks, along with the character test that was recently used to cancel the visa of Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef.
An applicant can fail the test if federal Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews deems there is reasonable suspicion they have associations with criminal groups....

...Dr Batarseh is affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which is banned in the US as a terror group. Mr Salman is a member of the governing Palestinian faction Fatah, and unsuccessfully opposed Dr Batarseh for the mayor's position. Both men are Christians, as specified in the council's constitution.

Five of the council's members are affiliated with Hamas, which is banned in Australia.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier refused to meet Dr Batarseh in May because of his PFLP links.

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