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Two people charged over alleged online threats against Labor Senator Kristina Keneally

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Australian federal police file charges against a 29-year-old man and a 41-year-old woman

Two people have been charged over alleged online threats against Senate Deputy Labor Leader Kristina Keneally.

Australian federal police have revealed that a 29-year-old man and a 41-year-old woman will face court in April after raids on Tuesday over the alleged threats, made via a social media messaging service.

Keneally, Labor’s internal affairs spokesman, confirmed on Sky News that the charges relate to threats against her and praised the police for their efforts and investigation.

In a statement, AFP said the man from Harrington Park in western Sydney and the woman from Maitland had “received court appearance notices after [alleged] threats against an Australian senator via a social media messaging service.”

“The man and woman are expected to face Sydney Central Local Court on April 13, 2022,” it said.

AFP said it will argue in court that the man and woman were “responsible for sending two separate threatening messages on November 21 and 22, 2021 that threatened or advocated violent acts.”

AFP investigators executed search warrants at the homes of both people on Tuesday and seized a mobile phone for further examination at the man’s residence in Harrington Park.

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The man has been charged with threatening to harm a Commonwealth public official and the woman with using a carriage service to threaten, harass or offend.

The crimes are punishable by up to seven years and up to five years in prison, respectively.

Keneally told Sky News that as the matter is “before the court”, she “would not go into the content or the circumstances” of the messages.

He thanked the federal police for taking the threats to parliamentarians “seriously.”

Australian law enforcement agencies are increasingly concerned about threats to the safety of politicians, particularly in the wake of extremist and violent rhetoric directed against them during anti-lockdown protests.

Keneally told Guardian Australia: “Having served as a state MP, [New South Wales] prime minister and I have been in public life for 20 years, this is not the first time I have received threats, and it is not the first time the police have had to make arrests.

“But what is different in the current context is that there is a level of anger and frustration, particularly about Covid, that is sometimes expressed in very challenging ways.”

Keneally said he was aware of “many incidents where members of parliament have been subjected to attempted threats and harassment”.

“The AFP has spoken of [the] need to improve security before the federal elections, that is important for the members, the candidates and the public in general”.

Violent incidents abroad, including the alleged stabbing of Sir David Amess and the murder of MP Jo Cox in the UK, have also put authorities on high alert.

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