16 Oct 2009

Five found guilty in Australia terror trial

3:12 pm on 16 October 2009

Five Sydney men have been found guilty of conspiring to commit a terrorism act on Australian soil, after the longest trial in the country's history.

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

They face possible life sentences after being convicted of stockpiling explosive chemicals and firearms with the intention of carrying out an act of terrorism.

After a 10-month trial at the New South Wales Supreme Court and four-and-a-half weeks of deliberations, the jury returned with its verdicts on Friday, the AAP reports.

The men, aged between 25 and 44, had pleaded not guilty to conspiring to commit an act, or acts, in preparation for a terrorist act.

They were accused of plotting with each other and with at least four other men between July 2004 and November 2005 to carry out a violent jihadist act.

During the trial, Crown prosecutor Richard Maidment said the men were all devout Muslims driven by extremist beliefs to plot violent jihad in retaliation for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They spent months working together to acquire chemicals, firearms and ammunition, and extremist literature found in their homes showed they had violent intent, he said.

Mr Maidment said the literature glorified the actions of "notorious persons" such as Osama bin Laden and instructed in the manufacture of pipe bombs using common ingredients such as citric acid and hair bleach.

The Crown submitted the men intended to influence by intimidation the Australian government's policy on the Middle East conflicts by using explosive devices or firearms to commit "extreme violence".

During the trial, the jury viewed more than 3000 exhibits and heard from more than 300 witnesses.

Jurors were taken through numerous intercepted phone calls and text messages the Crown alleged related to the conspiracy, but the defence disputed the prosecution's interpretations of them.

Lawyers for the men maintained there were innocent explanations for much of the material relied on by the Crown. They labelled the Crown case a "propagandist" bid based on misrepresentations of evidence.

While no direct evidence was shown to the jury to link the accused men to the plot or the supposed target of the terrorist act, on Friday the panel accepted the Crown case.

A sentencing hearing was set down for 14 December.