Accused ‘spoke of killing Howard’

THE youngest of 12 alleged terrorists asked his religious leader whether Muslims should kill John Howard and his family to pay the then prime minister back if his policies killed innocent Muslim families, a court was told yesterday.
Self-appointed sheikh Abdul Nacer Benbrika told Abdullah Merhi that Muslims were allowed to pay back “kuffr” – unbelievers – for wrongs they committed against Islam. “If they kill our kids, we kill . . .” he said.
But Merhi later told Benbrika he still had doubts about whether what they were discussing would please Allah: “I have to get stronger in the belief that it’s pleasing him.”
Benbrika: How can you get this doubt?
Merhi: . . . I am not perfect, sheikh.
Benbrika told him that “these kind of things” required people who were not scared and who did not care about “the terrestrial world”.
The men’s alleged exchanges were covertly taped by investigators and the conversation was played to the Victorian Supreme Court yesterday by prosecutor Richard Maidment, SC. Mr Maidment has previously told the court that Merhi had told Benbrika he was willing to take part in a terrorist act.
In the conversation, no specific act was mentioned, but Mr Maidment said that when any of the defendants talked about “doing something”, it was code for “commit a terrorist act”.
Benbrika warned Merhi to be patient and careful: “It has to be secretly. Watch yourself, because if you show them what you want” – (slapping noise) – “they gonna put them in – put us in jail.”
Merhi told Benbrika he did not want to wait 20 years, or even two years. He wanted to know whether, if he was sincere, Allah would “open the door” tonight, or in a month.
Benbrika told him to trust in Allah, who knew best, and not to act alone because such a person needed a “jemaah” (group) and a leader. He should not just kill “one, two or three”, Benbrika said, but should “do a big thing”.
Merhi: Like Spain?
Benbrika: That’s it.
Mr Maidment said this was a reference to bomb attacks on train travellers in Spain in 2004 that killed 191 and injured more than 1800.
Merhi asked whether Benbrika had seen pictures of what American soldiers were doing to women in Iraq.
These things needed to be exposed, he said.
Benbrika told him: “Here in Australia, when you do something, they stop to send the troop . . . If you kill – we kill here a thousand, the government is going to think.”
Merhi had complained that the group was taking too long to organise something, Mr Maidment said. He told the court that defendant Aimen Joud had told Benbrika: “Bring the tools, sheikh . . . If you don’t want us to run away, then prepare something.”
The 12 men are charged with intentionally being members of a terrorist organisation involved in the fostering or preparation of a terrorist act in pursuit of violent jihad.
Ten also face other terror-related charges. All have pleaded not guilty.
They are Abdul Nacer Benbrika, 47, from Dallas; 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 said Bassam Raad had been covertly recorded trying to buy a gun. He said Raad’s contact had texted him saying, “9mm $4000”, and Raad texted back, “Too much.”
Discussions continued, Mr Maidment said, with the contact at one point remarking, “Now you want a .22 like Chopper Read?” and asking Raad whether he really knew what a .22 was.
Mr Maidment said an intelligence officer who infiltrated the group spoke at length to Benbrika about how he had experience of using fertiliser ingredients to make explosives.
He said Benbrika had asked to be taught all about it: “Bring me everything and show how to do it.”
Mr Maidment said members of the group had threatened to harm people they suspected of betraying them to authorities. Several conversations contained exchanges about how the alleged terrorists suspected they were being followed, or that their phones were bugged.
The prosecutor said they took precautions to avoid detection, including speaking only guardedly about their alleged plans for violent jihad.
The trial continues before Justice Bernard Bongiorno.
Transcript of covertly recorded conversation
Merhi (above): If, for example, John – John Howard kills innocent family Muslim, yeah?
Benbrika (right): Yeah.
Merhi: Do we, we will make transgress back to him, do we have to kill him and his family, or can we just (kill/tell) his people like, like ¿ (The Crown says this is inaudible; the defence says “meeting” is mentioned) people at the football?
Benbrika: If they kill our kids, we kill ¿ (Crown: inaudible/ defence: “our”) little kids.
Merhi: The innocent ones?
Benbrika: The innocent ones.
Merhi: Because –
Benbrika: Because he kills our innocent one (inaudible) ¿
Merhi: And we send the message back to ’em.
Benbrika: That’s it.
Merhi: Eye for an eye.

First published in The Age.