Australian Muslims jailed on terrorism charges

February 3rd, 2009 - 1:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Feb 3 (DPA) An Australian cleric and six of his followers were jailed Tuesday for forming a terrorist cell that police allege plotted to bomb the 100,000 spectators at the 2005 rugby cup final in Melbourne.The Islamists were rounded up in November 2005 and found guilty in September 2008.

Algerian-born Abdul Nacer Benbrika, 48, who told his followers it was “permissible to kill women, children and the aged” in the cause of jihad, was sentenced to 15 years for intentionally directing the activities of a terrorist organisation.

His followers, aged 23-29, were jailed for between four years and seven-and-a-half years.

Judge Bernard Bongiorno told the court that the claim the group had plotted to blow up the Melbourne Cricket Ground was not proven because a witness at the trial had been deemed to be unreliable.

During the six-month trial, the jury heard 50 witnesses and listened to excerpts from 482 secretly recorded conversations among men who declared they wanted to “do something” to honour their religion.

Bongiorno said father-of-seven Benbrika had shown no remorse and that “all the evidence points to the conclusion that he maintains his position with respect to violent jihad”.

Police said the group watched videos of beheadings in Iraq and read books glorifying the hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center in New York.

The arrest of Benbrika and his followers came days after Australia updated its terrorism laws so that cases could be brought against those thought to be plotting a terrorist attack who may not have fixed on a specific target.

Prior to their sentencing, only three Australians had been convicted of terrorism offences.

Jack Roche, a British-born Muslim convert, has been released after serving four years of a nine-year sentence for plotting the truck-bombing of the Israeli embassy in Canberra. Roche was picked up in the raids that followed the bombings in Bali, Indonesia, in November 2002.

Pakistan-born architect Khalid Lodhi was jailed for a minimum of 15 years in 2006 for plotting a terrorist attack.

Last year former airport baggage-handler Belal Khazaal was jailed for publishing a terrorism how-to manual on the internet.

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