The family of a New Zealand citizen accused of preparing to fight in the Syrian civil war say they were in the dark about his alleged extremism.
Somalia-born Amin Mohamed faces a potential lifetime jail sentence in Australia after being accused of preparing to enter a foreign state to engage in hostile activities.
Mahad Warsame, a family friend and president of the Somali Community Association, told the Herald on Sunday the 24-year-old denied he wanted to travel to Syria.
“When the family spoke to him he said that he wasn’t going to Syria,” said Warsame.
“The family have no idea what happened to him. Most of the time he lived with his mother in Melbourne, then he left for Sydney and was away for a month or two.
“The next thing they hear he’s been arrested in Brisbane.”
Warsame said Mohamed’s family and friends were in shock over the claims and described him as a “funny and loving young man”.
“The guy I knew was not even religious.
“I’ve never seen him at a religious gathering or go to the mosque so I don’t know why he would have changed,” he said.
“He used to play basketball and go to the cinema.
“He also liked the nightlife in downtown Auckland.”
Mohamed moved to New Zealand in 1998 as a refugee with his mother and four sisters after his father was killed in the Somali civil war.
“They are a very good family. The mother was a very strong woman,” said Warsame.
He is profiled in the Somali Graduate Profile Journal as having attended Auckland’s Lynfield College.
It also claims he graduated from AUT University in 2012 with a degree in business.
However, AUT University spokeswoman Aimee O’Driscoll said there was no record of Mohamed graduating and it was unclear whether he ever registered as a student.
He moved to Australia in late 2012 and a year later he is alleged to have obtained a new passport and registered a mobile phone in a false name as part of his efforts to join the conflict.
It is also alleged the police intercepted phone calls between Mohamed and Sydney man Hamdi Alqudsi, who is accused of sending Australians to Syria to fight.
Alqudsi allegedly told him he was urgently needed on the frontline and spoke of obtaining martyrdom.
The Security Intelligence Service would not comment on whether they had monitored the man before he left New Zealand.
A spokesperson for John Key said the Prime Minister was unable to comment on individuals because of privacy and security reasons.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the family had not sought consular assistance. The Department of Internal Affairs refused to comment when contacted by the Herald on Sunday.
Mohamed will next appear in court in December.