Convictions in Australia terror case; Iraq war seen as motive

Australia has claimed a blow against a home-grown terrorist cell, with the conviction and sentencing of Abdul Nacer Benbrika, 48, of the Melbourne suburb of Dallas, and a group of five followers. Benbrika received a maximum term of 15 years, but two of his followers will be eligible for parole in 15 months. Justice Bernard Bongiorno said Benbrika formed the group, known as “Jemaa” for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad “The jemaah would achieve this by acts of terrible violence in this country, or perhaps elsewhere,” Justice Bongiorno said.

Bongiorno explicitly invoked Australia’s military involvement in Iraq as a motive. “In Australia, such terrorism would be directed towards coercing the Australian Government into withdrawing Australian forces from Iraq, as the presence of such troops in that country was seen as oppressive to Muslims and the Islamic religion,” he said. (Melbourne Herald Sun, Feb. 3)

See our last post on Australia.

  1. More (dubious?) Aussie terror convictions
    From the New Zealand Herald, Oct. 17:

    CANBERRA — Five men have been convicted of conspiring to bring terror and mass death to Australia with bombs and firearms, ending the country’s longest-ever trial amid loud protests by supporters outside a special high-security courtroom in Sydney.

    The men had amassed chemicals to produce explosives, held thousands of rounds of ammunition, and organised what prosecutors alleged were terror training camps in rural New South Wales.

    One was alleged to have trained with the Pakistani-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Sydney-based cell was linked to the Melbourne group led by radical Islamic cleric Abdul Nacer Benbrika, since convicted of terror offences.

    Australia’s Left Green Weekly raises doubts about the convictions:

    The October 17 SMH admitted that “the prosecution had not been able to point to a clear plan or target for any attack. A claim the nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights, the Opera House or Harbour Bridge were targeted was quietly shelved for lack of evidence.”

    Despite a police and legal cost of more than $45 million, 181 days of evidence over 11 months, masses of electronic eavesdropping evidence, 300 witnesses in court and 2100 statements, the prosecution was unable to present an actual target or evidence of an intention to commit an actual crime.

    The entire case relied on a mountain of circumstantial evidence, designed to overwhelm the jury.

    David Dalton, SC, who represented [defendant Mohammed Ali] Elomar, said there were “significant grounds” for appeal, reported the SMH.