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Australia Blocks Entry of Controversial US Anti-Abortion Activist

Troy Newman, the head of Operation Rescue, attempted to enter Australia despite his visa being cancelled by the country's immigration authorities earlier this week.
October 1, 2015, 9:50pm
Troy Newman, jefe de la organización antiabortista 'Operation Rescue' posa en su oficina en 2009 en Wichita, Kansas. (Antoine Doyen/Getty Images)

Australia is keeping a controversial American anti-abortion activist in custody at the airport for at least one more day, after he entered the country on Thursday with a visa that was cancelled earlier this week.

Australian authorities detained Troy Newman at the Melbourne Airport on Thursday soon after he stepped off a flight from the United States, a spokeswoman for Australian minister of Immigration Petter Dutton told Australian news outlet ABC.

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"Since Mr Newman-Mariotti does not hold a visa, he is unable to enter Australia and remains in the presence of ABF (Australian Border Force) officials at the Melbourne Airport pending his removal," the spokeswoman said.

Newman, who is the head of an US anti-abortion organization called Operation Rescue, has called for the killing of doctors who provide abortions. He was invited to speak at an anti-abortion conference hosted by a pro-life group in Australia, Right to Life. But on Monday his visa was cancelled per the urging of the head of the Australian Labor party, Terry Butler.

Related: A Drone Is Flying Abortion Pills From Germany to Poland This Weekend

Butler said Newman should be blocked from entering the country on the basis that his presence could incite violence toward doctors and women.

"I am concerned that Mr Newman's presence in Australia will cause significant harm to our community," Butler wrote in a letter to Australia's immigration minister, Peter Dutton, according to ABC. "Mr Newman's conduct may incite discord within the community and disrupt the ability of women to access lawful reproductive medicine."

Newman posted a video of himself last night arguing with an employee at the Denver airport, after he said he was pulled off a plane and told he could not continue his journey. It was not immediately clear how Newman was able to board the connecting flight to Australia with an invalid visa.

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Newman said in a subsequent Facebook post that his visa "revocation was based on a pile of lies," and asked for the public to pray for him "to get past immigration so the truth can be told throughout Australia."

Cheryl Sullenger, Senior Policy Advisor for Operation Rescue, compared Newman's detention to political imprisonment and called for his immediate release.

"It's shocking that the Australian government would take these lies at face value and deny Troy his right to his freedom and free speech," Sullenger said in a statement. "To say we are disappointed is an understatement."

Related: Thousands Take to Streets in Dublin as Ireland's Abortion Debate Heats Up Again

Newman's lawyers are challenging Australia's move to deny his entry, on the basis that he has never been convicted for inciting violence, reported the Guardian. His lawyers filed an appeal for his immediate release and are awaiting a decision from Australia's high court.

"The basis of the [visa] finding seems to rest solely on the adverse reaction to my client's presence in Australia," Newman's lawyer Richard Knowles told the Guardian. "There was no question at all that that my client has ever advocated violence."

Newman and Operation Rescue are best known for leading years of protests against an American doctor who provided abortions, George Tiller. Tiller was murdered in 2009 by an anti-abortion activist, Scott Roeder. Newman immediately distanced himself and his organization from Roeder, who he said was never affiliated with Operation Rescue.

Watch VICE News' documentary Abortion Rights in Ireland: