By Stuart Rintoul
ABDIRAHMAN Ahmed walked from the court yesterday after being found not guilty of being part of a terrorist plot to attack Sydney’s Holsworthy army base.
His first comment was: “Justice has been served.”
After a three-month trial, Mr Ahmed was freed by a Victorian Supreme Court jury, along with fellow Somali Yacqub Khayre.
But three others were found guilty of a terrorist conspiracy: Saney Aweys, Wissam Fattal and Nayef El Sayed. Asked about the convictions, Mr Ahmed replied: “It’s unfortunate, but this is God’s will. I just want to tell them to be patient. Inshallah, they will get out one day. We still continue the fight for the other fellows.”
He said he wanted to go home and see his family – “see my daughters, been a long time”.
In a joint statement, the Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police, the NSW Police Force, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the NSW Crime Commission said the operation was “a clear example of how state and federal police and the intelligence community are working collaboratively together to combat the threat of terrorism and ensure the safety and security of the Australian public”.
The federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, issued an identical statement.
In court, the men embraced in the dock after the jury found that Fattal, 34, of Melbourne, Aweys, 27, of Carlton North and Sayed, 26, of Glenroy, were guilty of conspiring to prepare for or plan a terrorist act between February 1 last year and August 4 last year.
The jury found Mr Ahmed, 26, of Preston, and Mr Khayre, 23, of Meadow Heights, were not guilty.
Fattal addressed the jury, saying: “I respect you. Islam is a true religion. Thank you very much.”
The five men were arrested in pre-dawn raids on August 4 last year, in an undercover operation codenamed Neath.
It involved about 400 officers from the AFP 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, but police alleged that the men intended to buy automatic weapons for a suicide attack on the Holsworthy base, with the aim of killing as many soldiers as possible before being killed themselves.
Crown prosecutor Nick Robinson told the jury the case against the men was “largely circumstantial”, but it included telephone intercepts of more than 2000 conversations and closed-circuit video footage of Fattal walking along the perimeter of the Holsworthy base.
In one call, Fattal was recorded telling his mother, in Lebanon: “Supplicate for me to be killed at the hands of the false messenger . . . for me to be the martyr at the hands of the false messenger.”
The prosecution alleged that the men were angered by Australia’s military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq and by the jailing of other Muslim men on terrorism charges.
Prosecutors said the men had sought a fatwa, or religious decree, from radical sheiks in Somalia allowing them to launch an attack on Holsworthy.
Mr Ahmed’s barrister, John O’Sullivan, said his client knew of the proposal, but had opposed it.
Mr Khayre’s barrister, George Georgiou, likened the prosecution case to an episode of Fawlty Towers, in which Basil Fawlty tries not to mention the war, which in this case was in Somalia.