Australia: Five jihadists convicted of terror plot

From The Telegraph U.K.

Five men convicted of terror plot in Australia’s longest trial

A court in Australia has found five men guilty of stockpiling bomb-making instructions and purchasing explosive chemicals as part of a plot to carry out a terrorist attack, bringing an end to one of the country’s longest running trials.

By Bonnie Malkin in Sydney
Published: 3:00AM BST 16 Oct 2009

The jury deliberated for a month before finding the men guilty of conspiring to commit acts in preparation for a terrorist attack. Each face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Abdul Hasan, Khaled Cheikho, Mohamed Elomar, Mohammed Jamal and Moustafa Cheikho have been in custody for nearly four years after they were arrested during raids on their homes in south-west Sydney in 2005.

During the 10-month trial, which started in November after eight months of pre-trial hearings, prosecutor Richard Maidment told the jury in the New South Wales Supreme Court that the men planned to use explosive devices or firearms to commit “extreme violence” in a bid to force Australia’s government to change its policy on Middle East conflicts. The target of the attack has never been released.

The Crown argued the men were stockpiling chemicals, firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition. It said they were influenced by the teachings of the Mujahadeen: “You kill us, we kill you … you bomb us, so we bomb you”.

Prosecutors said three of the men had taken part in paramilitary-style camps in far western New South Wales to prepare for an attack. The defence claimed the men were just camping.

The jury was also told that one of the accused, Moustafa Cheikho, had attended a paramilitary training camp in Pakistan run by the terrorist organisation, Lashkar-e-Toiba, but a key FBI witness told the court he could not be sure it was the man.

The jury heard from 300 witnesses, examined 3,000 exhibits, watched 30 days of surveillance tapes and listened to 18 hours of phone intercepts. However, no direct evidence was ever shown to the jury to link the accused men to the plot or the supposed target of the terrorist act and the proescution admitted the evidence was circumstantial.

Despite this, the jury was convinced that there was sufficient proof that the men were involved in a conspiracy to prepare for a terrorist act that according to authorities, was intended to create “maximum damage”.

The trial took place in a specially-built high-security court building in Sydney’s west.

There, the verdict was greeted with anger by supporters of the men. The group of supporters started shouting their protest as they watched the ruling being handed down on a screen outside the court.

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