Five jailed for thought-crimes

February 21, 2010

On February 15, five men who were convicted in October under "anti-terror" laws, were each sentenced in Parramatta court to between 23 and 28 years in jail. The shortest non-parole period was set at 17 years and three months.

AFP said on February 16: "Judge [Anthony Whealy] had said there was overwhelming evidence they wanted to create 'at the very least, serious damage to property' and posed a 'serious risk' to the public, although it was not clear that they intended to kill."

The "anti-terror" laws introduced by the former Howard government allow for conviction for terrorist conspiracy on the basis of very broadly-defined intent. The five were not convicted of planning any specific act.

"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", said the October 17 Sydney Morning Herald.

Reuters said on February 15: "The jury heard from 300 witnesses, examined 3000 exhibits, watched 30 days of surveillance tapes and listened to 18 hours of phone intercepts, but there was no direct evidence linking the accused to the terrorism plot."

Literature and videos supporting Islamic fundamentalist violence in other countries featured highly in the prosecution's case. Whealy's sentencing remarks suggest that the men were convicted for their opinions.

"It is clear beyond argument that the fanaticism and extremist position taken by each offender countenanced the possibility of loss of life", he said.

AFP quoted the unnamed sister of one of those sentenced: "That's a very big sentence — not even murderers get sentenced that much."

"Twenty-three years, that's half of his life. It's not fair to him, our community or our religion."

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