Feb 16 2010
The New Zealand Herald
Five men who assembled weapons, bomb-making equipment and propaganda for a terror campaign in Sydney have been given prison sentences ranging from 23 to 38 years.
They will join four others already jailed after admitting their parts in the conspiracy, and follow 11 others convicted in Melbourne of terrorism charges under the leadership of radical cleric Abdul Nacer Benbrika.
Most were arrested in dawn raids in November 2005 after months of surveillance, leading to the courtroom drama in Sydney that became the nation’s longest-ever terrorism trial.
The five men jailed yesterday, aged between 25 and 44, cannot be named for legal reasons.
Justice Anthony Whealy said the jury had been satisfied that the men had intended that acts be carried out in Australia involving the detonation of explosives as part of a violent jihad to force the Government to change its policies concerning war in Muslim countries.
He said that ammunition and chemicals for bomb-making had been accumulated in preparation for acts of terrorism, with the possibility that lives would be lost.
Whealy said he was also appalled by videos and other extremist material seized from the men, including footage of executions so horrific that the jury had been provided with a written summary rather than being required to watch it.
He said the men had an “intolerant, inflexible religious conviction” and contempt for the Australian Government and its laws.
The men were convicted of conspiring to commit an offence in preparation for a terrorist act or acts, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The longest sentence – 28 years with a non-parole period of 21 years – was imposed on the 44-year-old head of the conspiracy.
The others received sentences of 27 years with a non-parole period of 20 years and three months; 26 years (19 years and six months); 23 years (17 years and three months); and 20 years (19 years and six months).
The 10-month trial was based on evidence including seized electronic data equivalent to 1.8 million reams of paper, more than 2000 exhibits, 2100 witness statements, and about 300 witnesses appearing in court.
Although the prosecution at no stage identified any target, the court heard the conspiracy’s leader had been found in possession of 12 firearms and almost 30,000 rounds of ammunition.
With two others in the conspiracy – one of whom had also trained with the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba terror organisation in Pakistan – the leader had attended paramilitary training camps in rural New South Wales, described by the defence as camping trips.
Another of the group had ordered large quantities of bomb-making chemicals including sulphuric acid and acetone,
This man was also alleged to have been a key Sydney contact for the French militant Willie Brigitte during his 2003 visit to Australia.
Brigitte, an al Qaeda associate alleged to have plotted acts of terrorism in Australia, is serving nine years in France for associating with criminals in relation to a terrorist enterprise.
The court had also been told the group had night-vision cameras and a large amount of literature which “supported indiscriminate killing, mass murder and martyrdom”.
Crown prosecutor Richard Maidment QC said the men had been influenced by the mujahideen teachings of “you kill us, we kill you; you bomb us so we bomb you”.
In his submission to the sentencing hearing last December, Maidment said the men – who smiled after their sentences were read out yesterday – had shown no contrition.
“The evidence points to a high level of defiance and no retraction of their extremist views,” he told the hearing.