The enemy within: Australian al-Shabbab terrorists convicted
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The enemy within: Australian al-Shabbab terrorists convicted

In December 2010 a jury found Wissam Fattal, Nayef El Sayed, and Saney Aweys, guilty of terrorism offences after a six-week trial in the Victorian Supreme Court.

The three men were part of an Islamic terrorist cell that planned to enter the Holsworthy army barracks in Sydney, armed with military weapons and shoot as many people as possible before they were killed or ran out of ammunition.

The men, who had all met at the Preston Mosque in Melbourne's north, were arrested in August 2009 after undercover police infiltrated the group.

Justice King said Fattal was the most dogmatic and outspoken, in terms of religious fervour, of the three.

"All of you believe in the principle of martyrdom. All of you believe it is your obligation to oppose and deal with those you describe as infidels, being persons who are not of the Muslim faith or those of the Muslim faith who do not observe the faith in what you perceive as an appropriate manner, or adhere to the strong and fundamentalist views that you all hold.

"The fact that Australia welcomed all of you and nurtured you and your families is something that should cause you all to hang your heads in shame, that this was the way you planned to show your thanks."

Fattal had been a champion kickboxer from Lebanon who married his wife in 2004 after meeting her at a barbecue in Melbourne.

His life changed when he travelled back to Lebanon a year later and became infuriated by a Danish cartoon that many Muslims believed was an insulting, offensive depiction of the prophet Mohammed.

Fattal joined a violent protest against the cartoon which caused extensive damage outside the Danish embassy in Beirut and he was arrested and jailed for three months.

Justice King noted that Aweys' statements towards the people and the government in Australia were becoming more heated and more anti-Australian in early 2009.

Aweys, who came to Australia in 1998 after spending six years in a refugee camp in Ethiopia and is married with four children, claimed "everyone was happy" with the Black Saturday bushfires on February 7 "as a punishment for this country".

Before sentencing began Friday 16 July 2011, Fattal stood in the dock and yelled about hostilities in Afghanistan and Syria, forcing Justice Betty King to order his removal from the court.

As Fattal was led away he pointed vehemently towards the judge, calling out "corruption".

He did not return to the court even when his sentence was read out.

As Sayed was led away he said: "Allah gives us justice, not these courts."

The men, originally from Lebanon and Somalia, plotted a shooting at the Sydney Army base, intending to kill as many people as they could until they themselves were shot dead.

The court heard the intent of the attack was to advance Islam through violence.

Justice King called the plans "evil".

"A totally horrific event if it ever came to pass," she said.

But she described the plot, which took 10 months to plan, "amateurish".

"This was far from a sophisticated plan that was hatched," she said.

Surveillance

In 2009, Fattal travelled to New South Wales to conduct surveillance of the Holsworthy base. His visit was captured on CCTV.

But the court heard he carried no camera, no writing materials and no plans.

He was arrested by police on the same day on a separate assault charge.

The court heard all three men support Al Shabaab in Somalia and both Aweys and Fattal were prepared to train and fight for the terror group.

Justice King said because the men had not recanted their belief in jihad, they remained a danger to the community.

'Intolerant Muslim'

Justice King described Fattal as a simple man, but said his low intelligence did not make him any less dangerous.

She said the former champion kickboxer was a devout man with extremist views, adding that he was an "intolerant Muslim" who had a fervent belief in religious martyrdom.

Justice King told the court it was clear Fattal believed that Australia, its Government and its troops were all at war with Islam, and he considered all non-Muslims as infidels.

All three are held in protection and are likely to remain there.

For the previous 989 days, Fattal has been kept in protection, mainly at the Melbourne Remand Centre, due to his behaviour.

He will not obey prison guards, tries to convert other prisoners, and it is considered a management problem.

The men must serve 13-and-a-half years before they are eligible for parole.

On June 17, 2013 The Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions appealed against the maximum 18-year jail terms handed down to the men, saying the sentences were inadequate for the crime.

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