Seven convicted of 'terrorism'

Issue 

The trial of 12 Muslim men under the "anti-terror" laws has ended with seven being found guilty of one or more charges, four found not guilty and the jury unable to decide on one.

On September 15, the jury announced guilty verdicts on Abdul Nacer Benbrika, Aimen Joud, Fadl Sayadi, Abdullah Merhi, Ahmed Raad and Ezzit Raad, while Hany Taha, Bassam Raad, Shoue Hammoud and Majed Raad were found not guilty. The following day, Amer Haddara was found guilty and it was announced that the jury was unable to reach a verdict on Shane Kent, who will face a new trial.

Those found guilty were all convicted of belonging to a "terrorist organisation". Some were also convicted of providing funds or resources to the supposed organisation or helping to lead it. Benbrika was convicted of directing a terrorist organisation.

The prosecution said the supposed terrorist organisation consisted of the 12 men accused, plus Izzydeen Atik, who gave evidence against the other 12. Atik's evidence was dismissed as unreliable by the trial judge, Justice Bernard Bongiorno, in his summing up to the jury.

Apart from Atik's testimony, the evidence against the 12 consisted of secretly recorded conversations between them, including about whether violence in Australia might be a justifiable response to Australian involvement in violence against Muslims in countries such as Iraq. However, these were purely theoretical discussions; there was no evidence of actual planning or preparation of a terrorist attack.

At a media conference organised by Civil Rights Defence on September 17, defence lawyers Rob Stary and Greg Barns explained how the "anti-terrorism" laws enable people to be prosecuted for what they say and think. Stary said the laws are "unjust and capable of exploitation", while Barns said that under the laws an organisation can be considered terrorist "even if it has no terrorist act in mind". Civil Rights Defence campaigns for the repeal of all the anti-terrorism laws.

Stary called for an apology and monetary compensation for the four men found not guilty after being jailed for nearly three years under an oppressive regime.