Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin has defended releasing details of an alleged terrorist plot amid complaints the prime minister compromised the trial of one of the men involved in the plan.
Sydney man Omarjan Azari faced court on Tuesday over allegations he was part of a plot to kill “a random unbeliever” and then film the body next to an Islamic State flag.
Azari, 22, was denied bail after Sydney’s Central Local Court was read extracts of a conversation between him and Islamic State member Mohammad Baryalei, the most senior Australian member of the terrorist group.
His lawyer Steven Boland on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Tony Abbott of prejudicing the case against his client by making public statements about the matter, saying they were an “unprecedented intrusion by a sitting PM into criminal proceedings”.
Mr Boland said Mr Abbott spread misinformation about the case.
“Mr Abbott has deliberately or otherwise spread misinformation that has no support in the evidence,” he said.
But Mr Colvin, during questioning at a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra on Tuesday, said it was not unusual or uncommon for such material to be placed on the public record.
“I have no doubt that people form a view as to whether that is too much or too little,” he said.
“We believe it was in the national interest for that material to be public and we understand that there is a balancing act.”
Mr Colvin said details had appeared in media reports before being released by the AFP, adding he was “comfortable with it”.
“No police officer and no police commissioner wants to do anything that would jeopardise a prosecution,” he said.
“There’s no question about that but I think these are unusual times that we live in in terms of counter terrorism.
“We are asking for a compact with the community where we ask them to trust us and in return they expect from us certain information.”
Azari, who appeared via video link from Goulburn’s supermax prison, is also facing terrorist financing charges.
He is scheduled to reappear in court on April 29.