A blueprint for Australian jihad

By Greg Ansley

Four years ago a bearded Frenchman known as Salahudin arrived a training camp deep in the Himalayas run by the fundamentalist terror group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, fighting to unite Indian Muslims in a new Islamic state spanning Kashmir and Pakistan.

Salahudin, it is alleged, was the man now identified as Willie Brigitte.

It was Brigitte who would later lead Australian spycatchers to Faheem Khalid Lodhi, a Pakistani-born Australian citizen facing a possible life sentence for planning jihad in Sydney.

Next Thursday Lodhi will be sentenced on three charges of terrorism.

His conviction is the first under the wave of new laws that followed the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, and the subsequent bombs in Bali.

Deciding an appropriate sentence has troubled New South Wales Supreme Court Justice Anthony Whealy, who admitted difficulty in assessing Lodhi's culpability because he knew so little about what Lodhi intended, who else may have been involved and what the targets may have been.

Lodhi was convicted largely because of the implications drawn from his obtaining maps of the electricity grid and prices for chemicals that could be used to make bombs - both under assumed names - the discovery of what prosecutors described as a terrorism manual, and his association with Brigitte.

The incriminating connection with Brigitte, now awaiting trial in France for allegedly associating with a terrorist organisation there, was proven by surveillance by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

But despite ASIO suspicions that Brigitte intended to wage jihad in Australia, he was deported in 2003 for visa irregularities.

His connection to Lashkar-e-Tayyiba was established during Lodhi's trial on the video evidence of a turncoat terrorist who rolled over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to avoid spending his life in an American jail.

Justice Whealy's difficulty was not helped by prosecutor Richard Maidment SC (senior counsel), who could offer as a precedent only the 28-year sentence imposed in Northern Ireland on an Irish Republican Army terrorist convicted of conspiracy to bomb a bus station.

Lodhi's sentencing will be closely watched in Australia because it will establish a local precedent for a series of trials of alleged terrorists.

The circumstances of the three men so far convicted of terrorism offences offered few guidelines: Perth Islamic convert Jack Roche was jailed for nine years in 2004 for plotting to bomb the Israeli embassy in Canberra; "Jihad" Jack Thomas was cleared of being an al Qaeda sleeper, but was jailed for five years for receiving funds from a terror group; and Zeky Mallah was jailed for two years for making threats, rather than - as alleged - planning a suicide mission to kill ASIO and Foreign Affairs officers.

Coming up are the trials of radical cleric Abdul Nacer Benbrika and 16 alleged associates arrested in mass raids in Melbourne and Sydney in November; former Qantas baggage handler Bilal Khazal, the alleged author of a manual for jihad; and alleged Lashkar-e-Tayyiba trainee Izhar ul-Haque, a Sydney medical student.

Lodhi's fate will also be monitored by lawyers and civil libertarians who believe the new anti-terrorism laws seriously undermine human rights.

After Lodhi's conviction last month Thomas' barrister, Lex Lasry QC, warned that while a fair trial was possible under the welter of new laws, they remained too broad and the charges were subjected to huge pre-trial publicity.

Lohi's counsel, Phillip Boulton SC, who also represented Zeky Mallah, was more critical in a paper for the NSW public defenders' conference obtained by the ABC. "The combination of ASIO's coercive powers, the broad definition of terrorist offences, the extremely harsh conditions of custody in which terrorist suspects are held, and the running commentary of politicians and the media about the arrest, prosecution and detention of terrorist suspects are all combining to create very difficult conditions for the trials of these people."

Boulton's reference to prison conditions was repeated in court during Lodhi's sentencing submissions.

Incarcerated in Silverwater maximum security prison as an AA-classified inmate - the first to be defined as a threat to national security - Lodhi has been kept in solitary confinement for 20 hours a day, with all mail, telephone calls and visitors monitored and recorded.

It is a far cry from the life the former architect had intended when, by his own account, he left Pakistan in 1998 for Australia to improve his life.

He told the court his new life had not gone to plan and, instead of architecture, he planned a new import-export business.

Lodhi's father, retired lawyer Khalid Lodhi, said he had advised his son to open his own business when he returned to Pakistan for a family visit in December 2002. Father and son discussed the possibility of exporting Australian gas-fuelled electricity generators to Pakistan.

His brother Sameer Lodhi, who operates a tannery in Lahore, also told the court he and his brother had discussed the possibility of importing chemicals and building materials as well as generators.

Neither father nor brother could believe Lodhi was a terrorist. Lodhi snr said his son had never shown any interest in military affairs or violence, nor had he been connected in any way with fanatical religious groups.

"He's a man of art, not of military."

Sameer Lodhi said his brother was a gentle man, "not a violent person at all".

Former employer Majed Khan, who also gave evidence by video from Pakistan, described Lodhi as a nice, soft-hearted person.

ASIO thought differently. Its agency established a clear connection with Willie Brigitte who, despite never being charged with terror-related offences in Australia, was suspected of intending to wage jihad in Australia. A raid on his home produced maps of nuclear sites.

The Brigitte connection was a key element of the prosecution's case, magnified by the publicity surrounding ASIO suspicions, his later deportation and allegation of terror connections.

But these links were challenged by Lodhi's defence. The evidence tying Brigitte to Lashkar-e-Tayyiba - "Army of the Pure and Righteous" - was given by videotape from the United States by Yong Ki Kwon, a terror suspect who reduced three life terms to just three years by turning FBI informer. He identified Brigitte as a fellow trainee at the terror group's training camp in Kashmir.

But he admitted to the court he had lied extensively to the FBI during his interrogation and deal-making. The FBI also admitted they had shown Kwon only one picture - of Brigitte - rather than a selection of faces.

Whatever the truth of Brigitte's connections and intentions, evidence to the court left no doubt Lodhi knew the Frenchman. In 2003 Brigitte, known to Lodhi as "Jabrille", had called Lodhi on a mobile phone obtained under a false name.

Lodhi later met Brigitte on his arrival from France, provided him with a mobile phone under another false name, and met him regularly.

Lodhi and Brigitte both phoned a man in Pakistan known as Sajid, allegedly the contact man for foreign trainees at the terror camp. Lodhi also knew Izhar ul-Haque, the Sydney student accused of training with Lashkar-e-Tayyiba.

Later, Lodhi sought the prices of 10 chemicals from a company called Deltrex Chemicals, using the fax at the office of his employer, Sydney architects Thomson Adsett under the fictitious corporate name of Eagle Flyers.

Lodhi claimed he had sought the prices in connection with his proposed chemical export venture. The prosecution said seven of the chemicals could be used to make bombs that an expert explosives witness said could destroy most of the court complex and those within it.

Lodhi also bought two diagrammatic maps of the national electricity grid from the Electricity Supply Association of Australia, using the name M. Rasul, of Rasul Electrical. He said at the time he wanted to display them at his new business.

The prosecution said it was Lodhi's clear intent to use the maps to attack the nation's electricity supply; defence counsel said the schematic drawings would be as useful as a Collins Atlas to the captain of a ship intending a long sea voyage.

Lodhi further downloaded aerial photographs of military installations at Holsworthy, on the fringes of Sydney, the city's Victoria Barracks, and HMAS Penguin on Sydney Harbour.

He said he had worked at all three and had intended to use some of the images in a curriculum vitae.

When ASIO agents raided his home, they found what they described as a terrorism manual handwritten in Urdu by Lodhi, a disc of four US military explosives and weapons training manuals, material urging violent jihad, and CDs praising Osama bin Laden and containing footage of executions by jihadists in Chechnya.

The prosecution alleged Lodhi based his case for jihad on a text from the Koran reading: "Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into the hearts of your enemy."

Lodhi denied this in court. "This country is my country and these people are my people. The killing of innocent people is not part of Islam."

The jury did not believe him. Lodhi was convicted of acting in preparation for a terrorist act by seeking information about chemicals capable of making explosives, carrying a maximum life sentence.

He was also convicted of possessing a terrorist manual and of buying the maps of the electricity grid, connected with preparation for a terrorist act.

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