Fijian immigration authorities have no record of Neil Prakash, an Isis fighter whose Australian citizenship was revoked by the Australian government on the understanding he was a dual national.
Under Australian law a dual national can be stripped of their Australian citizenship if they have committed terrorists acts, but international law prohibits rendering a person stateless.
On Friday it was revealed Australian authorities had revoked the Australian citizenship of 27-year-old Neil Prakash over his association with offshore terrorism groups, on the understanding he also held citizenship in Fiji.
However, the director of the Fijian immigration department, Nemani Vuniwaqa, told Guardian Australia unequivocally the 27-year-old Prakash had never held or sought Fijian citizenship.
“The law states that if you are born outside of Fiji the father has to apply for citizenship for the child,” Vuniwaqa told Guardian Australia. “He hasn’t applied for it, his father hasn’t applied for it.”
Prakash was born in Australia and is of Fijian-Indian and Cambodian background, and the government’s understanding was that he held Fijian citizenship, the Australian reported on Saturday.
“Dual citizens who choose to be involved in terrorism forfeit the privileges of Australian citizenship, and I remain committed to enforcing the legal provisions that remove them,” the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, said on Saturday.
First reported by the Fiji Sun, Vuniwaqa said he had searched through Fijian immigration records, and confirmed Prakash had not entered the country, applied for citizenship, or had his father apply on his behalf.
“He was born in Australia and has acquired Australian citizenship since birth,” he told the paper.
Vuniwaqa told Guardian Australia he learned of the Australian government’s claim that Prakash was Fijian through the media, and no one had spoken to his department.
“We should be consulted on that,” he said.
“But [now] we wouldn’t be speaking in the same language in the first place because he’s not a Fijian citizen.”
The department of home affairs was asked to clarify its understanding of Prakash’s citizenship status, whether it had spoken to Fijian authorities and whether it had rendered him stateless by revoking his Australian citizenship.
A spokesman said only that a person may only lose their Australian citizenship under Australian law “if they are a national or citizen of a country other than Australia”.
“Australia is committed to upholding our international legal obligations, including our obligation not trendier a person stateless.”
He refused to comment further.
Prakash’s Australian passport was cancelled in 2014 and he was added to a sanctions list the following year. He was captured in Turkey in 2016, and is now in a maximum security prison facing terrorism charges with potential sentences of up to 15 years in jail.
He is wanted by Australian authorities over his alleged role in two terrorism plots, including one to target Anzac Day services in Melbourne in 2015, and over his travel to Syria to fight with Isis. He faces a potential life sentence if extradited and convicted in Australia.