AFP coy on legal advice over Abbott reading transcript

THE Federal Police will not say if it sought legal advice before allowing Prime Minister Tony Abbott to make potentially prejudicial comments in parliament about two men charged with terrorism offences.

On Thursday, under parliamentary privilege, Mr Abbott read from a transcript of a video seized during arrests of two men in Sydney for plotting a terrorist attack.

The pair arrested, Omar al-Kutobi, 24, and Mohammad Kiad, 25, were accused of the plot.

Mr Abbott told parliament the men said they would carry out an attack by "stabbing the kidneys and striking the necks".

"I don't think it would be possible to witness uglier fanaticism than this, more monstrous fanaticism and extremism than this, and I regret to say it is now present in our country," he also said.

Mr Abbott has come under fire from the legal community for the comments, which some say may pollute a jury pool in a case against the pair.

New South Wales Bar Association president Jane Needham SC told the ABC the court may find it "impossible" to find a jury not affected by the comments, which could stop the men from receiving a fair trial.

"Well I note that the Prime Minister says that he had the prior consent of the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, but the prosecutions of these men should be left, in the association's view, to take their proper course, and not to have the kind of commentary that has been attached to the transcript of the film," Ms Needham said.

A spokesman for Mr Abbott's office said he quoted the transcript with the prior consent of AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin, but declined to comment on Mr Abbott's further statement in parliament.

While an AFP spokesman confirmed Mr Colvin approved him to "quote the information received", the AFP declined to detail whether or not any legal advice was sought before giving consent.

The spokesman said only that Mr Abbott was given a national security briefing about the issue on Thursday.

The Attorney-General's Department did not respond to questions about whether the AFP sought its advice on the matter.


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