Benbrika boasted of threats, court told

ACCUSED terrorist leader Abdul Nacer Benbrika warned a journalist he would never forgive him if he “used anything against” him in his report, the Supreme Court heard yesterday.
Prosecutor Richard Maidment, SC, said Benbrika was covertly recorded saying that he had told then-ABC journalist Nick McKenzie: “This life doesn’t cost nothing for me. Watch yourself . . . I’ll come to you . . . I know where you are.”
In the 2005 ABC interview, Benbrika said some people believed Jews might have been responsible for the September 11 attacks in the United States and that Osama bin Laden was a great man “and he is my brother, as is every Muslim”, Mr Maidment said.
Benbrika refused to condemn the London tube bombings, saying he did not know who had done them or why, and he was “shifty” in ducking questions about whether he supported violent jihad, Mr Maidment said.
Benbrika repeatedly said Islam forbade killing innocents but evaded questions about whether he considered Australians innocent, Mr Maidment said.
Asked by McKenzie whether he considered any Australians not innocent, Benbrika paused before saying: “I would like to advise John Howard not to send troops to Iraq.” He then said some Australians had burned mosques.
Mr Maidment said Benbrika was later covertly recorded saying that lying was “an art” and “you need to train yourself, when you lie, to remember. This is, by itself, a knowledge.”
Mr Maidment said Benbrika’s insincerity with McKenzie (now an Age journalist) was evident when the interview was contrasted with covert recordings in which Benbrika said: “When September 11 occurred, didn’t we feel happy?”
In a covert recording a week after the London bombings, one of Benbrika’s followers, Ezzit Raad, allegedly said of the death toll: “It should have been more.”
Benbrika and 11 other Melbourne Muslim men are charged with having been members of a terrorist organisation pursuing violent jihad. Several face other terror charges. All the men have pleaded not guilty to all counts.
Benbrika described himself to the ABC as an Algerian-trained aircraft engineer who had been unable to find work in Australia since his arrival in 1989. He said he had studied religious texts, largely on his own, and taught Islam and Arabic, Mr Maidment said.
Benbrika had told his followers after the ABC interview that he had not needed to be clever as journalists were “stupid” because they did not understand Islamic law.
Benbrika tried to dissuade some of his colleagues from bashing a suspected informer because drawing police attention might interfere with the group’s real work, Mr Maidment said.
The trial continues before Justice Bernard Bongiorno.

First published in The Age.