Sat, Dec 17, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Australian terror plotters jailed for 18 years

‘TOTALLY HORRIFIC’:An attack the men had planned in retaliation for the country’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan could have been the worst in Australia’s history

AFP, MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

Three men who conspired to kill as many people as possible in a gun attack on an Australian military base were yesterday sentenced to 18 years in jail, with the judge describing their plans as “evil.”

A jury found Wissam Mahmoud Fattal, 35, and Nayev El Sayed, 28, both of Lebanese descent, and Saney Edow Aweys, 27, who is of Somali origin, guilty of conspiring to plan a terror attack a year ago.

They escaped the maximum penalty of life in prison, but Justice Betty King sentenced them each to 18 years with a non-parole period of 13-and-a-half years, saying they remained a danger to the community.

“None of you, not one ... recanted from any extremist view that you held,” she said in her judgement.

“That is a significant factor because each of you, whilst you hold those views, remains a danger to the members of this community and thus protection of the community remains a very significant factor in sentencing you,” she said.

The trio were found guilty of plotting to attack Sydney’s Holsworthy Army Barracks with high-powered weapons and shoot as many people as possible before being killed themselves to further their vision of Islam.

“Your intentions, your plans, were deadly serious,” she said.

“It was to kill as many personnel that could be found on the army base at Holsworthy in the time prior to you being killed yourselves as martyrs,” she said, in what she added would have been “a totally horrific event.”

“Your plans were evil. You intended to plan a random shooting of anyone you found on that army base, be it army personnel, civilian, male or female,” she said.

However, she also said the plan by the men, who have been linked with Islamist extremists in Somalia, was at an “amateurish level.”

The judge’s ruling was repeatedly delayed by a series of pre--sentence hearings.

During last year’s trial, it was revealed that the terror plan was developed between February and August 2009, with one of the men visiting Somalia to seek a fatwa, or religious decree, backing the attack.

The court heard that the trio had condemned Australia’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan and believed Islam was under attack from several countries, including Australia.

Fattal was caught on security footage walking around Holsworthy’s sprawling perimeter, and was secretly recorded describing it as an easy target, while another of the men was heard laying out their plans.

The arrests put a focus on security standards at army bases, and police said the attack, if carried out, would have been the worst in Australian history.

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