Circumstantial evidence convicts 'terrorists'

Issue 

In one of the longest and most expensive criminal trials in Australian history, five Muslim men were convicted in Parramatta Court on October 16 of "conspiring to do an act in preparation for a terrorist act".

The men (Mohamed Ali Elomar, Khaled Cheikho, Moustafa Cheikho, Abdul Rakib Hasan and Mohammed Omar Jamal) had allegedly conspired with four others, who pleaded guilty to lesser charges in return for reduced sentences, the October 17 Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The alleged "terrorist network" is supposed to have covered Sydney and Melbourne. The leader, Melbourne Muslim cleric Abdul Nacer Benbrika, with seven supporters, was sentenced on similar charges this year.

But big questions remain about the evidence used to convict the five.

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 Elomar, said there were "significant grounds" for appeal, reported the SMH.