Accused plotted mayhem, court told

‘If you kill a thousand, the Government . . . will listen’
Karen Kissane, Law and Justice Editor   ALLEGED Islamic terrorists in Melbourne talked of blowing up a football ground or a train station to inflict maximum damage and loss of life, the Supreme Court was told yesterday.
The alleged leader, Abdul Nacer Benbrika, told his followers that if they killed a thousand people, the Government would pay attention and stop sending troops to Iraq, prosecutor Richard Maidment, SC, told the jury.
“If you kill here a thousand, the Government is going to think, because if you get large numbers here, the Government will listen,” Benbrika allegedly said in a recorded conversation.
Mr Maidment was opening the Crown case against 12 men, including Benbrika, who are charged with intentionally being members of a terrorist organisation involved in the fostering or preparation of a terrorist act. It is alleged that the act or threat involved the use of a bomb or weapons in pursuit of violent jihad with the intention of coercing or intimidating the Government or the public. Ten of the men also face other terror-related charges.
The accused have all pleaded not guilty.
Mr Maidment said the group was infiltrated by an undercover officer known as SIO 39, who told the men he was a Muslim of Turkish background who wanted to pursue violent jihad.
The agent allegedly told Benbrika he knew how to make explosives from fertiliser and went with Benbrika to Mt Disappointment to demonstrate his skills using 500 grams of ammonium nitrate. Benbrika had asked how much it would take to blow up a large building and was told about 200 kilograms; then he asked the agent whether he could obtain up to 500 kilograms, Mr Maidment alleged.
Mr Maidment said Benbrika believed Australia to be a land at war, which meant Australians were fair game in pursuit of jihad. Asked by one of the accused whether terrorist activity pleased Allah, he allegedly replied: “You are pleasing him. Why? Because they are killing our brothers.”
Mr Maidment said: “Ben-brika taught it was permissible . . . to kill innocent people including women, children and the aged.” He said Benbrika believed “jihad” had only one meaning: fighting infidels, or those who did not believe in Allah.
Mr Maidment said his alleged followers made Ben-brika a pledge or “bay’at” and some of them contributed from their wages to a “sandooq”, a box or a common fund of money. The prosecutor claimed that credit card fraud and stealing cars that were stripped for parts were among other ways the group tried to raise funds to further its goals.
More than once, he said, members of the group expressed “violent intent” towards people they suspected were informing the authorities about them.
Mr Maidment said Benbrika was largely self-taught and, while he purported to be a Muslim sheikh able to teach Islamic law, “the Crown doesn’t suggest for a moment that the views expressed by Mr Benbrika properly reflect any aspect of the true Islamic religion”.
Mr Maidment said Benbrika many times urged his followers to secrecy, warning one: “If you show them what we want they are going to put us in jail.”
But he also told them that the work of the group could continue in jail, the prosecutor claimed.
Mr Maidment told jurors they would hear 482 conversations between the alleged terrorists that were covertly recorded by investigators.
He said defendant Abdullah Merhi offered himself to Benbrika as a participant in a terrorist act, and sought Benbrika’s advice as to whether he should offer himself overseas instead because the Melbourne group’s alleged plans were moving slowly.
Benbrika, 47, is from Dallas. The other accused are Shane Kent, 31, of Meadow Heights; Majed Raad, 23, of Coburg; Abdullah Merhi, 22, of Fawkner; Aimen Joud, 23, of Hoppers Crossing; Ahmed Raad, 24, of Fawkner; Fadl Sayadi, 28, of Coburg; Ezzit Raad, 26, of Preston; Hany Taha, 33, of Hadfield; Shoue Hammoud, 28, of Hadfield; Bassam Raad, 26, of Brunswick; and Amer Haddara, 28, of Yarraville.
Mr Maidment continues his opening today before Justice Bongiorno and a jury of 15.

First published in The Age.