SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian police on Tuesday dropped a terrorism related charge against a teenage boy who was accused of planning an Islamic State inspired attack at a national remembrance day parade.
Australian Federal Police formally withdrew the charge against 18-year-old Harun Causevic of conspiring to commit an act of terror and released him on bail.
A second teenager, Sevdet Besim, who was arrested on the same charge, was remanded in custody to appear at a two-day committal hearing in December.
Causevic and Besim were arrested in April during police raids just days before Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) day, the anniversary of the two countries’ first major World War One campaign that now commemorates all fallen soldiers.
The alleged plan to attack police at the Melbourne ANZAC day parade was uncovered by police in Britain who found messages on the phone of a 15-year-old British boy to a man in Australia.
That sparked an Australian police operation that resulted in the arrest of several teenagers. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott used the case as an example of the threat posed by radicalized youth in Australia.
Police gave no formal reason for dropping the terror charge against Causevic, who pleaded guilty to three other charges on Tuesday in relation to knives and a knuckle duster found in his possession.
Asked if the charges were dropped because police had mishandled the case, Victorian state Premier Daniel Andrews said: “They’re very tough calls, some people will support them, some people won‘t, but I support them because they’re doing everything they can to keep all of us safe.”
Court documents revealed that Victorian Police had used a highly secretive preventative detention order (PVO) to initially detain Causevic without charge because of his connections with Besim and Numain Haider, who was shot dead after attacking police with a knife last year.
Causevic’s lawyer, Rob Stary, made an application for the police to pay all his client’s legal fees related to the terror charge. Causevic’s bail conditions state he must remain in Australia. He will also undergo counseling before returning to court on the weapons charges in November.
The British boy, who cannot be identified because of his age, pleaded guilty last month to inciting an attack on police at the ANZAC day memorial parade in Melbourne. He is due to be sentenced on Sept. 3.
Reporting By Jane Wardell