Prisoner injured in Islamic State attack may not have been a veteran: David Elliott

NSW Corrective Services Minister David Elliott. Photo: Tim Hunter The Mid North Coast Correctional Centre in Kempsey. Photo: Supplied

NSW Corrections Minister David Elliott says he has been unable find any evidence that a prisoner who was allegedly attacked by an Islamic State supporter at a jail on the NSW Mid North Coast was an Australian Army veteran.

The 40-year-old man’s radicalised cell mate, Bourhan Hraichie, 18, allegedly used a sharp object to carve “e4e” into his head inside the Mid North Coast Correctional Centre in Kempsey last week. The slogan was an apparent reference to the terrorist group’s “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” mantra.

The radicalised teenager also allegedly placed a towel over the victim’s face and poured boiling water over him, and allegedly broke the older man’s sternum.

It was reported that the injured man was a former Toowoomba-based army officer who had served in East Timor, and who was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

But Mr Elliott told Alan Jones on 2GB on Monday that he had not been able to confirm that the injured man was a former Australian soldier.

“I’ve got no evidence at the moment that he served in the Australian Army,” said Mr Elliott, who is also the Minister for Veterans Affairs and himself a former army officer.

“I don’t want to cast aspersions, but [after] my preliminary inquiries, I can’t find how anybody believes that this victim is a veteran. I don’t know who told the media that this guy is a veteran because I’ve got no evidence that he was.”

Regardless of whether the man was a veteran, Mr Elliott said the alleged attack was “disgusting” and “this is not the way that a civilised society treats its prisoners”.

Earlier, Jones said he had been inundated with messages from army veterans who were “white hot with rage” that the former soldier had been targeted.

“Is this the best we can do for a bloke who served his country?” Jones had asked.

“Who places a disturbed army veteran in jail to start with, and then in a cell with an Islamic State sympathiser, when our soldiers are overseas fighting this mob, and now for his trouble he gets tortured, and almost killed? Now if this is not an administrative disgrace, what is?”

Mr Elliott admitted that placing the injured man, who was a minimum-security prisoner, in a cell with the radicalised teenager, who was a maximum-security prisoner, was a mistake.

“That was a stuff-up,” Mr Elliott said, adding that the general manager of the prison had been stood down.

Mr Elliott said Muslims were over-represented in the Australian prison system, representing about 9 per cent of the prison population.

“In the last three months, we have implemented a new program called Prism which is deliberately designed to address radicalisation but … as you well know, this is something new.”

The victim was reported to be fighting for his life initially after the attack, but was now “close to being released back to a correctional centre”, the Department of Corrective Services said on Sunday.

Hraichie has been charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent and intentionally choking a person.

He has been moved out of the prison’s maximum security section, and is due to face Kempsey Local Court on May 23.

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