Thursday, May 31, 2007

Nine Muslim men arrested in Australia's largest counter-terrorism operation have pleaded not guilty to charges of plotting an attack in Sydney

BBC News:

The men, who are all Muslims, are accused of allegedly planning an attack to advance a "political, religious or ideological cause".

Their lawyers insist they are innocent, and that chemicals found at their homes were for household or industrial use.

Their trial is set to begin in February 2008.

If convicted, they could be sentenced to life in prison.

Some of the men wore Islamic dress in court.

They smiled and waved to supporters amid tight security at New South Wales Supreme Court, in Sydney, but refused to stand to enter their pleas for religious reasons.

Earlier this year, prosecutors accused the men of stockpiling chemicals that can be used to make bombs and downloading bomb-making instructions from the internet.

The suspects were allegedly devotees of radical Muslim cleric, Abdul Nacer Benbrika, also known as Abu Bakr, who is sympathetic to Osama bin Laden.

The nine - Mohammed Ali Elomar, Mazen Touma, Abdul Rakib Hasan, Khaled Cheikho, Moustafa Cheikho, Khaled Sharrouf, Mirsad Mulahalilovic, Omar Baladjam and Mohammed Jamal - were arrested in a series of pre-dawn raids in Sydney and Melbourne in November 2005.

Police have accused them of trying to inflict maximum damage in Australia as part of a holy war because they believed their religion was under attack.

Among the alleged targets was Australia's only nuclear research reactor, on the outskirts of Sydney.

The men were detained after the Australian government passed new anti-terrorism legislation that making it easier to prosecute suspects allegedly involved in the early stages of planning an attack.

Some Aussie Muslim leaders bristle at Hirsi Ali’s visit

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