The Accused, the charges and the evidence
Twenty-seven charges were laid against twelve defendants who were all Muslim, mostly second-generation and born in Australia. All pleaded not guilty to all the charges. The Muslim cleric Abdul Nacer Benbrika, aged forty-eight, was described as the leader of the group and an adviser to many of the others charged. Ezzit Raad and Abdullah Merhi were two of the other men charged with a number of terrorism-related offences. Abdullah Merhi was the youngest of the men and still a teenager when the original offences occurred. He now has a wife and child. Apart from Benbrika, all the others are under thirty.
The men spent more than two years in solitary confinement in a maximum-security prison on the outskirts of Melbourne before the trial commenced. The charges were all related to being part of a terrorist organisation, including intentionally being a member of a terrorist organisation and intentionally providing funds to support a terrorist organisation. In addition, Merhi was charged with being prepared to offer his body as a suicide bomber.
Much of the evidence tendered was over 482 taped recordings of conversations between the Muslim cleric and some of the other accused. These conversations were transcribed from thousands of hours of taped conversations. There was also a video film of the Muslim cleric Benbrika with an undercover agent who had infiltrated the group and who had shown Benbrika how to operate an explosive device.
Justice Bongiorno’s sentencing
You can download and read Justice Bongiorno’s full sentencing document given by the judge at the conclusion of the trial. This 68 page document contains the charges on all defendents, the verdicts of the jury members and the judge’s summary of the case. If you are interested in the details of the trial, this is a good document to read.