THE question of whether convicted terrorists had renounced violent jihad would be central to their sentencing, a judge said yesterday.
He was speaking at the plea hearings of Aimen Joud, 23, and Ezzit Raad, 26, two of six men convicted with Muslim sheikh Abdul Nacer Benbrika of being members of an organisation fostering or preparing a terrorist act.
Justice Bernard Bongiorno rejected the adequacy of claims that the two men felt sorry for the hardship their actions had caused their families and the community. “That’s not remorse,” he said.
Raad’s lawyer said he could not say his client had “total remorse”.
Joud’s lawyer said the group’s plans were not advanced, so Joud “didn’t have a victim” over whom to feel remorse.
Justice Bongiorno said: “He didn’t have an individual victim. We have this society, which is the victim.
“I think the ‘R-word’ is the word that’s going to have to be dealt with, if not by counsel then ultimately by me in respect of my judgement about sentencing.
“If someone here were to say, ‘I have considered the things we discussed, the things that we were going to do, the things that we might have led to and what that might have meant to the society in which we live, and I have come to the decision that I won’t have anything to do with it’ – saying ‘I am sorry for what I have put my family through’ is not enough.”
Greg Barns, for Raad, said his client came under Benbrika’s influence shortly after his brother died at the age of 23.
Mr Barns said Raad was involved in only 23 of 482 covertly taped conversations, that his fingerprints were on only one of 31 documents in the group’s common jihadi library, and that there was no evidence he gave a pledge of loyalty to the leader, Benbrika.
He had “a relatively minor role in the organisation”, he said.
Mr Barns said the judge should make concurrent the sentences for being a member of and attempting to provide funds to the organisation.
Trevor Wraight, for Joud, denied prosecution claims that Joud had been Benbrika’s “heir apparent”.
He said Joud had moved away from the group by the time he was arrested and had not had a more senior role than others in Benbrika’s consultative council.
He also asked for concurrent sentences on Joud’s five convictions.
The two men were remanded for sentence on a date to be set.
First published in The Age.