Thu, Aug 24, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Would-be jihadist gets 20-year term


A Pakistan-born architect accused of plotting a jihad or holy war bombing campaign in Australia was sentenced to 20 years in jail yesterday.

Faheem Khalid Lodhi, 36, was convicted of planning to blow up the electrical grid in Australia's biggest city, Sydney.

Supreme Court judge Anthony Whealy said the attack, if carried out, would "instil terror into members of the public so that they could never again feel free from the threat of bombing attacks within Australia."

Lodhi, who denied four counts of preparing to commit a terrorist act, bowed his head but showed no other emotion as he heard the sentence.

He had faced a possible life sentence as one of the first to be convicted under tough laws passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard refused to comment directly on the sentence, but told reporters: "The Australian public knows how much I am opposed to terrorism. And the Australian public knows how determined I am to maintain and strengthen where necessary our anti-terrorism laws."

The indictment said Lodhi had "the intent of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause, namely violent jihad."

Prosecutors linked Lodhi, also known as Abu Hamza, to Frenchman Willie Brigitte, who was deported in late 2003 after being accused of plotting a major attack in Sydney.

Brigitte, who remains in custody in France, is suspected of links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda.

Both he and Lodhi are alleged to have trained with Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant Pakistani group that Australia has banned as a terrorist organization.

Lodhi was convicted of preparing for a terrorist act by seeking information about chemicals capable of making explosives. He was also found guilty of possessing a "terrorism manual" and of buying two maps of the electricity grid in preparation for a terrorist act.

The jury acquitted him of a charge that he downloaded aerial photographs of several defense sites for a purpose connected with terrorism.

Lodhi, who has Australian citizenship after immigrating in the mid-1990s, denied he had any intention of launching an attack.

"This country is my country and these people are my people," he said while giving evidence in his own defense.

"The killing of innocent people is not part of Islam," he said.

The judge sentenced Lodhi to a maximum of 20 years jail with a non-parole period of 15 years.

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