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WORLD

Bishop Stabbed During Sydney Church Service Backs X’s Legal Case to Share Video of the Attack

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — A Sydney bishop who was stabbed repeatedly in an alleged extremist attack blamed on a teenager has backed X Corp. owner Elon Musk’s legal bid to overturn an Australian ban on sharing graphic video of the attack on social media.

A live stream of the knife attack on April 15 and subsequent social media posts quickly drew a crowd of 2,000 people to the Assyrian Orthodox church, sparking a riot in which 51 police officers were injured and 104 police vehicles were damaged.

“I do acknowledge the Australian government’s desire to have the videos removed because of their graphic nature,” Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel said in audio posted on YouTube on Wednesday.

“However, noting our God-given right to freedom of speech, and freedom of religion, I’m not opposed to the videos remaining on social media,” Emmanuel added.

Musk has accused Australia of censorship, while Australian governing and opposition lawmakers have united in accusing Musk of arrogance and a lack of social responsibility for allowing violent and divisive posts.

Police announced on Thursday that five teenagers accused of following a violent extremist ideology have been charged with a range of offenses in an investigation that began with Emmanuel’s stabbing.

The attack in the Christ the Good Shepherd Church has set in motion two unrelated legal processes. One is the criminal prosecution of the alleged perpetrator or perpetrators and the other is a civil court action centered on the harm that could be caused by the video spreading on social media.

Police said Thursday the five boys charged, aged from 14 to 17, were among seven arrested across southwest Sydney on Wednesday in a major operation by the Joint Counter-Terrorism Team. The team includes federal and state police as well as the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, the nation’s main domestic spy agency, and the New South Wales Crime Commission, which specializes in extremists and organized crime.

Police allege the seven are part of a network that included the 16-year-old boy accused of stabbing Emmanuel and a priest. Neither cleric sustained life-threating injuries. That boy was charged Friday with committing a terrorist act, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

X is fighting an order from the Australian regulator, the eSafety Commission, last week to take down Emmanuel’s video from the platform.

Other social media companies including Google, Microsoft, Snapchat and TikTok have complied with similar orders from the eSafety Commission, which describes itself as the world’s first government agency dedicated to keeping people safer online.

An Australian Federal Court judge on Wednesday extended his order banning X from showing the video until May 10, despite objections from X’s lawyer, Marcus Hoyne.

Emmanuel had recently provided X’s legal team with an affidavit “stating that he is strongly of the view that the material should be available,” Hoyne told the court.

The commission’s lawyer, Christopher Tran, told the court that the video was “graphic and violent” and would cause “irreparable harm if it’s continuing to circulate.”

Emmanuel, 53, who immigrated to Australian from Iraq as a child, has called for calm and urged no retaliation for the attack. He suffered multiple stab wounds, including to his face, and has not posted images of his face since the attack.

The five boys allegedly linked to Emmanuel’s attacker appeared before a Sydney children’s court on Thursday.

Two boys aged 16 and one aged 17 were charged with conspiring to engage in or planning a terrorist act, a police statement said. The older boy was also charged with carrying a knife in public, it said.

Two boys aged 14 and 17 were charged with possessing or controlling violent extremist material accessed online, police said.

Two other boys arrested Wednesday have not been charged so far, police said. Three other juveniles and two men were being questioned by police but were not under arrest, police said.

More than 400 police executed 13 search warrants Wednesday at properties across southwest Sydney and one in Goulburn, a city about 200 kilometers (120 miles) south of Sydney.

New South Wales Police Deputy Commissioner David Hudson alleged Wednesday that the arrested boys “adhered to a religiously motivated, violent extremist ideology.”

The church attack was the second high-profile recent stabbing to rock Sydney. Three days earlier, a 40-year-old man with a history of mental illness and no apparent motive was shot dead by police inside a shopping mall after he killed six people and wounded a dozen others.

Police said there was no threat to Thursday’s commemoration of Anzac Day, when thousands gather for dawn services and street marches around Australia to remember the nation’s war dead.

Extremists have plotted mass-casualty attacks on past Anzac Days, but police have intervened before plans were executed.

April 25 is the date in 1915 when the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the beaches of Gallipoli, in northwest Turkey, in an ill-fated campaign that was the soldiers’ first combat in World War I.


By ROD McGUIRK Associated Press

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