Abdirahman Ahmed (L) and Yacqub Khayre walk free in Melbourne after being acquitted of terror charges. Picture: Stuart McEvoy Source: The Australian
TWO men accused of plotting a terrorist attack on Sydney’s Holsworthy army base have walked free, saying ‘justice has been done’.
The two vowed to continue the fight for three other Melbourne men who were convicted of plotting the attack.
A Victorian Supreme Court jury today found Abdirahman Mohamud Ahmed, 26, of Preston, and Yacqub Khayre, 23, of Meadow Heights, not guilty of conspiring to prepare for or plan a terrorist act between February 1, 2009 and August 4, 2009.
But Wissam Mahmoud Fattal, 34, of Melbourne, Saney Edow Aweys, 27, of Carlton North and Nayef El Sayed, 26, of Glenroy, were found guilty.
In the court, the men embraced in the dock and Fattal declared Islam the true religion.
Outside court, Mr Ahmed told reporters he was very relieved following an anxious wait for a verdict.
“I think justice has been served,” he said.
When asked about the convictions of three of his co-accused, he replied: “It’s unfortunate but this is God’s will. I just want to tell them to be patient. They’ll get out one day.”
Mr Ahmed said he wanted to spend his day at home with his family.
“See my daughters. Been a long time,” he said when asked of his plans.
The five men were arrested in pre-dawn raids on August 4, 2009, in an undercover operation codenamed Neath, involving about 400 officers from the Australian Federal Police as well as Victorian and NSW police.
The Australian learned of the alleged plot during the previous week, but held the story for five days at the request of the AFP, eventually going to press on the morning of the raids.
No weapons were found in the raids. Police said the alleged terrorists planned to buy automatic weapons, but had neither the money nor connections to get them.
The jury was told the men had planned to attack the Australian army barracks at Holsworthy in Sydney, and to shoot as many people as possible until they were killed or overwhelmed.
Melbourne’s Somali community came out strongly in support of the young men, describing them as “good boys from good families”, and dismissed fears that sections of their community had been radicalised by the extremist group al-Shabaab.
After a three month trial, the jury retired to consider its verdict on December 15, and returned this morning.
During the trial, the court heard that Fattal, who was under surveillance from September 2008, wanted to die a martyr’s death and that the men knew each other from the Preston mosque, in Melbourne’s north.
It heard too that some of the men harboured deep antipathy towards Australia, with Aweys describing Australians as “infidels” and declaring the Black Saturday bushfires were a punishment from Allah.
The court heard was told that while Mr Ahmed sought an answer from radical Somali sheikhs on whether a fatwa was permissible in Australia, he was always opposed to the plan, saying that if permission was given it would be a catastrophe.
The court heard that Mr Khayre travelled to Somalia, allegedly to get permission for the attack, although his legal team argued that he had gone to Somalia to fight in the civil war and had no animosity towards Australia.
Federal police left the court today grim-faced.
Prosecution and defence lawyers also were tight-lipped, with appeals likely be launched for Fattal, El Sayed and Aweys.
Somali community leaders said the verdict went part of the way to vindicating the community’s support for the men.
Justice King remanded Fattal, Aweys, and El Sayed in custody.
They will appear in court for a mention hearing on January 24.
Source: The Australian