Suspect ‘worried about stealing but not shooting’

Car-stripping scheme alleged
ALLEGED terrorist Ezzit Raad was anxious about a stolen car being in his garage in case it was not “halal” – permitted under Islamic law – the Supreme Court heard yesterday.
When he expressed doubts that it was right for him to store the car, he was allegedly asked by another man, Ahmed Raad, “You will point a gun at (an unbeliever’s) head and shoot him but you will not put the stolen car here? . . . What’s wrong? What’s the difference?”
Prosecutor Richard Maidment, SC, yesterday read parts of the men’s alleged conversation to the court. He said Ezzit Raad did not respond to the gun-pointing remark with outrage but replied, “This is different, all right? Don’t put that with this.”
It was alleged that, as Ezzit Raad continued to protest about the car, a third man, Aimen Joud, told him that the mujahideen “brothers in Chechnya” also stole to support Allah’s cause: “You just see all those macho videos where they are all holding AKs and all shooting, you don’t see what they do behind . . . They don’t do it every single day, man, they do this.”
Mr Maidment said the men were involved in a car-stripping scheme to raise funds for an alleged terror organisation to which they belonged.
The three are among 12 Melbourne men charged with intentionally being members of a terrorist organisation involved in the fostering or preparation of a terrorist act. It is claimed 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.
The court has previously been told that the group’s alleged leader, Abdul Nacer Benbrika, had wanted to kill 1000 people to try to force the Australian Government to stop sending troops to Iraq.
Mr Maidment yesterday said that in another covert recording in 2004, defendant Fadl Sayadi rang Lebanon from Melbourne and was told by a contact that his name had been given to Lebanese intelligence. “I heard they thought you belonged to a certain society, I don’t know which,” said the contact.
Mr Maidment said Sayadi replied, “F g hell!” He said Sayadi then called another member of the alleged terror group who was travelling overseas, telling him to get money together and “make up a story for your reason going there”.
Mr Maidment said Benbrika had told the men they were part of a “jemaah”, a word that he said meant “one who has truth”.
Mr Maidment said Benbrika left the Preston mosque because of disagreement over his views and was recorded saying, “‘Nobody told me to leave. They want me to talk as they want. They want to think the same. I go, forget it.”
Mr Maidment said that the group discussed suspicions that members of the mosque had reported them to authorities.
Mr Maidment told the jury, “This is not a social group. This is not the Preston light-reading club or prayer group. This is a group with plans for more expansive activities and aspirations that go well beyond any kind of ordinary social interaction between people who might have a common interest in model airplanes or golf.”
Accused are Abdul Nacer Benbrika, 47, from Dallas; Shane Kent, 31, Meadow Heights; Majed Raad, 23, Coburg; Abdullah Merhi, 22, Fawkner; Aimen Joud, 23, Hoppers Crossing; Ahmed Raad, 24, Fawkner; Fadl Sayadi, 28, Coburg; Ezzit Raad, 26, Preston; Hany Taha, 33, Hadfield; Shoue Hammoud, 28, Hadfield; Bassam Raad, 26, Brunswick; and Amer Haddara, 28, Yarraville.
The trial will continue on Monday before Justice Bernard Bongiorno and a jury of 15.

First published in The Age.