Five to face court over plot to sail from Australia in fishing boat to join IS

Five men suspected of planning to travel in a small motor boat as they made their way from Australia to join Islamic State will appear in court on Monday to face terrorism offences. The men, aged between 21 and 31, are charged with preparing to enter a foreign country “for the purpose of engaging in hostile activities’, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. They include notorious Australian Islamic preacher Musa Cerantonio, who was deported from the Philippines in 2014 for urging people to join jihad in Iraq and Syria.

(There is) an unusual character to the plot, I know it has been ridiculed, but these are serious crimes

Australian attorney-general George Brandis

The five were arrested on Tuesday after towing the 7m motor boat almost 3,000 km (1,865 miles) from Melbourne to Cairns in northern Queensland state. It is thought they planned to cross the sea to the Philippines and to make their way from there to Syria. They had all had their passports cancelled and were under surveillance, according to Australian attorney-general George Brandis. When it became clear to the men they could not leave "in an orthodox way, they remained under surveillance so that if they attempted to leave the country in this very unusual way they would be able to be stopped and they were,” he added.