Critical phrase: "Where we do draw the line is where religion is really a camouflage for other activities."
The NSW (New South Wale) Government has launched a prison crackdown on a group of the state's most dangerous criminals who have converted to Islam.
The targets are held in the highest security jail in Australia, the Super Max facility inside the walls of Goulburn jail, where one in three of the inmates is a Muslim fundamentalist or a convert.
Two prison converts, one a convicted murderer and the other a rapist, have married Muslim women in marriage ceremonies conducted over the telephone on party lines.
Attorney-General John Hatzistergos is introducing sweeping changes to the prison regulations so the Super Max Muslims are monitored 24/7 because of safety and security fears.
"We have to be able to control every movement and every utterance because of the threat they pose," Mr Hatzistergos told The Sun-Herald. "We don't want to see any risk to people either inside or outside the system. We simply can't take our eye off them."
Called the "Super Max Jihadists", they are easily identifiable, with shaven heads, long beards, carrying prayer beads and conducting prayers at least three times a day in their cells.
Their ringleader and powerbroker is Bassam Hamzy, jailed for 21 years for the cold-blooded shooting murder of an 18-year-old man outside the Mr Goodbar nightclub in Oxford Street in 1998.
Prison officers have confiscated pictures of Osama bin Laden from the walls of Hamzy's cell. Prisoners have been captured on surveillance tapes kneeling in front of Hamzy and kissing his hands.
The 37 Super Max inmates, including backpacker serial killer Ivan Milat, have committed 48 murders and are serving combined sentences of 550 years.
Now 12 of them claim adherence to Islam and form a close-knit culture in the purpose-built jail within a jail. Under Mr Hatzistergos's new measures, Hamzy and his apostles will be deemed "extreme high security" and be subject to controls that can be ordered at any time by NSW Corrective Services commissioner Ron Woodham.
The crackdown will stop money being sent by sympathisers on the outside to influence inmates to convert to Islam.
In future, Mr Woodham will have to approve in advance any sums of money sent to inmates' accounts in the "extreme high security" category.
"We don't have a difficulty with people taking up a religion per se in jail," Mr Hatzistergos said.
"A lot of people do and that can be beneficial.
"Where we do draw the line is where religion is really a camouflage for other activities.
"If any person thinks that by taking up religion, that somehow it is going to lead to them being treated differently on a day-to-day basis, they will be sadly mistaken."
He was supported by Mr Woodham, who said: "We're concerned about real heavy criminals who have had no interest in religion at all during their lives but, on coming to jail, then convert to Islam.
"A number of Aboriginal prisoners, unfortunately, doing impossible sentences, have converted to Islam. They denounce their Aboriginality for Islam."
Outlining the new powers to case-manage the Hamzy followers, Mr Hatzistergos said: "They can be moved around the jail system for any purpose at any time.
"The commissioner can put in place any additional security arrangements he wishes, including a restriction on contact visits, monitoring those visits, monitoring phone calls, recording phone calls and checking all mail."
Mr Hatzistergos, who is also Justice Minister, said the Department of Corrective Services would face justifiable criticism if it didn't act in response to the safety and security of the prison system being compromised. "We make no apologies for it," he said. "We are dealing here with, religion or no religion, some of the worst of the worst offenders who have no respect for authority.
"The thought that somehow religion has acted as a catharsis for them and made them see the light is, quite frankly, ludicrous."