The Australian Federal Police (AFP) on Thursday issued an arrest warrant against elusive Queensland teenager Oliver Bridgeman who is claiming to be doing “aid work” in Syria’s conflict zone.
Two AFP officers also visited Bridgeman’s family in Toowoomba and informed his parents about the arrest warrant. Bridgeman’s passport was cancelled in February by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) even as his parents were making efforts to bring him back to Australia.
The AFP said the warrant was issued on the grounds of “incursions into foreign countries with the intention of engaging in hostile activities.” The offence can carry life imprisonment. Bridgeman’s lawyer Alex Jones told The ABC that the teenager’s parents are distraught.
“In their minds, it’s just another example that they’d been lied to for the last 12 months after giving so much co-operation,” he said.
The lawyer said if the government had not intervened, Bridgeman would have been home by now. He said AFP’s action came despite Bridgeman communicating his willingness to cooperate with the authorities. The arrest warrant implies that AFP officers can intercept the 19-year old Queenslander and escalate his case to that of an internationally wanted person.
Bridgeman also faces the risk of being caught in crimes against Australian law if he travels without valid documents and may be prosecuted in foreign countries through which he travels.
The AFP made up its case against Bridgeman after studying his Facebook posts and a TV appearance in 2105, where he was pictured as doing aid work. In the TV appearance, he claimed to have built a “good relationship with different rebel factions” in Syria to move around safely without being kidnapped.
Bridgeman was reported missing by his parents in 2015, after he failed to return home from a Bali trip and reportedly fled to Syria.
Lawyer Jones told News Corp that he could not understand the intent of the arrest warrant as its language refers to the period when the teenager arrived in Syria. He said Bridgeman’s actions and appearance in Syria do not show any links with terror groups. Jones said Bridgeman was looking jovial in a recent video posted to Facebook. He was also boasting about a school he built “with his own hands.”