Brigitte revelations cast doubt on Lodhi conviction

February 9, 2007

According to former French intelligence security chief Alain Chouet, the terrorism-related charges against Willie Brigitte, who is being tried in France, are "weak". Quoted in the February 5 Australian, he said Brigitte is a "person without importance whom the Australian authorities continue to play on to create fear".

These revelations undermine Australian authorities' sensational allegations that Brigitte was planning a terrorist attack on the electricity grid and the Lucas Heights reactor in NSW.

But Chouet's views also cast doubt on the conviction of Faheem Khalid Lodhi on terrorism charges in Sydney last June, which was partly based on his association with Brigitte in Australia. Austrlaian security agencies pursued everyone who had been associated with Brigitte.

Chouet was quoted by the Australian as saying: "French justice is really tired of Brigitte. The Judicial charges are weak. I persist in believing he is an imbecile …"

Brigitte has been held for three years without trial under France's draconian "anti-terror" laws. He has been interrogated by the so-called "cowboy" judge, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, who has been widely criticised by French civil libertarians and lawyers for his brutal interrogation methods. After three years, the only thing the security services have pinned on Brigitte was the falsification of some documents (for alleged al-Qaeda operatives). He does not appear to have been involved in any terror acts, or plots.

The prosecution highlighted Lodhi's association with Brigitte as implying terrorist intentions. But Chouet's opinion supports that of Brigitte's lawyer — that Brigitte himself had no terrorist intentions in Australia.

The other evidence presented in Lodhi's case is flimsy, failing to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. There were no plans for any terrorist act discovered, nor any bomb-making material. The allegations that Lodhi was planning to bomb the electricity grid were based on two schematic diagrams that he said he bought for his business office. The diagrams were very general, and would have been useless for locating targets.

When the jury were unable to come to a decision after a week, the judge sent them back insisting they come back with a unanimous verdict. In an atmosphere of fear about terrorism, whipped up by the Howard government, Lodhi was convicted and given a 20-year sentence. This should now be reviewed as a matter of urgency.

If the allegations against Brigitte are exaggerated nonsense, serving the political purposes of the government and security agencies, as Chouet suggests, it is likely that the allegations against people like Lodhi, linked with Brigitte, are also sensationalised nonsense.

Some of the nine Sydney men who were arrested last year on "terror" charges have also been linked with these alleged terror plots. (One bought rocket launchers that, it was alleged, could have been used to attack the nuclear reactor, even though it was later revealed the weapons would have hardly been able to scratch it!)

It is horrifying that security agencies could be so eager to participate in the "war on terror" and so gung-ho to get convictions that they may be deliberately setting up and convicting individuals who are not terrorists.

[Colin Mitchell is an activist with the Melbourne-based Civil Rights Defence group.]

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