Jailed would-be terrorists ‘unrepentant’

15Jan

Five Sydney Muslim extremists convicted of plotting a terrorist attack in Australia have been jailed for maximum terms ranging from 23 to 28 years.

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Justice Anthony Whealy noted the men remained dangerous and unrepentant, appearing to “wear their imprisonment like some kind of badge of honour”.

“Each man’s conviction was that the plight of Muslims in other lands demanded violent action in this country to redress those wrongs and, through fear and panic in the community, to change the government’s policies,” he said.

NSW police have welcomed the sentencing, while supporters of the convicted men say murderers get less.

At the end of the nation’s longest terror trial last year, a NSW Supreme Court jury found the men guilty of conspiring to commit an act or acts in preparation for a terrorist act, between July 2004 and November 2005.

In sentencing the men on Monday, Justice Whealy outlined their plot which included stockpiling firearms, ammunition, chemicals and laboratory equipment.

They also had recipes for making explosives, as well as other instructional material including the “Sniper Handbook”.

All five had a “vast quantity of extremist or fundamentalist material” including images glorifying the 9/11 hijackers and images of “heroes of the jihadist movement”.

Some had material showing the executions of hostages or prisoners by mujahideen, which were “particularly brutal and graphic”.

“It is impossible to imagine that any civilised person could watch these videos,” the judge said. The common material showed the men each had the mindset of “You kill us, so you will be killed.

You bomb us, so you will be bombed”, he said. Justice Whealy said the evidence did not establish that any firm conclusion had been reached about the nature of the action or its target.

But he was satisfied they all intended that the action would at the very least “cause serious damage to property”.

While he could not conclude they intended directly to kill, the judge said it was clear that “the fanaticism and extremist position taken by each offender countenanced the possibility of loss of life, if that were to occur”.

They were motivated by “an intolerant and inflexible fundamentalist religious conviction”, he said.

The enterprise had been “very deliberate and very determined”, while the “defiant and brazen nature of its activity was very significant”.

The judge said the criminality involved in the enterprise fell “only marginally short of the most serious case”, which would have attracted a life sentence.

“There is a wide range of material that has never been recovered,” he noted.

The eldest conspirator, a 44-year-old businessman, was jailed for a maximum of 28 and a minimum of 21 years.

The judge referred to his police interview answers which “showed a very high level of defiance, dislike and anger” towards the Australian government and its policies overseas.

Another man, 36, received a maximum of 27 and a minimum of 20 years three months.

According to a psychologist, the man said he had become disenchanted with his lifestyle in his early 20s and started to practise Islam, attending five prayer meetings or sessions a day.

The man’s 32-year-old nephew and another conspirator, a 40-year-old man, were each jailed for a maximum of 26 years, with a non-parole period of 19 years six months.

The nephew developed an interest in the Koran from 1996 onwards and attended the Prayer Hall at Lakemba twice a day during the past decade.

While the judge was satisfied that he attended a training camp in Pakistan in 2001, he said this did not aggravate the conspiracy offences.

“It established in him a jihadist mentality that was later to be reflected in some of his radical views and intolerant attitudes,” he said.

The youngest conspirator, 25, was jailed for a maximum of 23 years with a non-parole period of 17 years three months.

“I accept his involvement came about because of his involvement with men who were older and more senior than he,” he said. Nevertheless, he had “deliberately thrown his lot in with those men”.

NSW Police welcome sentence

“This prosecution was the result of a highly successful joint operation between the New South Wales Police Force, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the New South Wales Crime Commission and supported by other jurisdictions and agencies, in particular the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions,” police said in a statement.

“The significant amount of evidence tendered to the court clearly demonstrates the seriousness of the allegations and the intentions of those charged.”

Assistant Commissioner Peter Dein, Commander of the Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Command, said police had clearly shown their ability in investigating and prosecuting the men.

“I cannot stress strongly enough, complacency is a terrorist’s best friend,” he said. “But I can assure you that the New South Wales Police Force will never become complacent when it comes to tracking down terrorists.”

Supporters say sentence not fair

Supporters of the convicted men have criticised the hefty sentences handed out today.

“That’s a very big sentence,” a supporter of one of the men sentenced said.

“Not even murderers get sentenced that much.

“Twenty-three years, that’s half of his life.

“It’s not fair to him, our community or our religion.”

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