Is Hamdi Alqudsi the world's wimpiest terrorist?

By Candace Sutton

Convicted terrorist mastermind Hamdi Alqudsi insists he is a suburban dad who loves Australia, sings Waltzing Matilda to his kids and doesn't deserve to be held "in a cage" in prison for his crimes.

The 42-year-old disability pensioner, who has two wives living in different southwestern Sydney suburbs, faces a heavy jail term of decades when he is sentenced in the NSW Supreme Court on Thursday.

Found guilty of recruiting seven young Australian men to fight for Islamic State and aiding six of them to enter Syria, where two died in jihadi combat, Alqudsi has now wept in court about his predicament.

Alqudsi, who was filmed among the extremists protesting against an alleged anti-Islamic film during the 2012 Hyde Park riots in Sydney, pleaded for leniency.

In possibly the most emotional display by a man convicted of terrorism-related acts with IS, Alqudsi sobbed about his AA extreme high risk classification and being "placed in a cage" in prison.

It was Alqudsi's plan, along with Australia's most senior member of Islamic State in Syria, Mohammad Ali Baryalei, to form an "Australian battalion ... of brothers" to fight in Syria.

But in court he cried as he spoke for the first time, Fairfax reported, saying "I love Australia. I always have.

"I sit down with my children and I teach them how to sing Waltzing Matilda.
"I am not a terrorist man, and I have been placed with terrorist people in that jail.

"It's not fair what's happening to me at the moment even though I broke the law, man.

"I am put with terrorists who threaten the safety of our country. I am classified as them."

Alqudsi's "cage" is a cell in Lithgow Correctional Centre terrorist segregation wing.

His family told news.com.au they were unable to visit him there, which is the same wing that has held extremist gangster Bassam Hamzy and Australia's first convicted terrorist Faheem Lodhi, who like Alqudsi came to Australia from Pakistan.

The group of men already convicted of or awaiting trial on terrorism charges in NSW are divided between Lithgow prison and Goulburn Correctional Centre's High Risk Management Centre (Supermax).

Alqudsi presented himself at his pre-sentencing hearing as a "caring big brother" to the men he sent to Syria, he claimed, on "a humanitarian mission".

"They were going to go and get trained on how to use arms, weapons and how to help and defend the people of Syria," he said.

But he admitted he hadn't checked up on how the men fared. Caner Temel, 22, was shot in the head by a rebel sniper in a January 2014 siege.

Tyler Casey and his wife, former Gold Coast private schoolgirl Amira Karroum were killed by the Free Syria Army and their bodies were dismembered.

Two of the recruits, Mehmet Biber and Muhammad Abdul-Karim Musleh have returned to Australia, while the fate of two others is unknown.

Mohammad Ali Baryalei, a former Kings Cross bouncer and Underbelly extra, is believed to have been killed in Syria.

During Alqudsi's trial, it became clear that the ringleader abandoned plans to join the "brothers" on the IS front once he learnt about the living conditions.

Alqudsi, who has one wife in Revesby and lived with another, controversial Muslim convert, Carnita Matthews, was clearly alarmed at the lack of toilet and shower facilities on the IS frontline.

Ali Baryalei told Alqudsi that the brothers were preparing for a "big, big operation" in which "1500 holy warriors ... may attain martyrdom in the path of Allah".

But before Alqudsi could leave his four bedroom, two bathroom brick home on a large suburban block at St Helens Park in western Sydney and go to Syria, he spoke with Mehmet Biber via WhatsApp.

In the conversation intercepted by the Australian Joint Counter Terrorism Team, Alqudsi asked about conditions on the front.

"Tell how you eat, shower, toiletry please just give me an idea??" he asked.

"Tell me about where do you sleep, what you use to clean yourself, from shaving hair, give me a detail picture please brother???."

Intercepted phone and Skype calls revealed life for your average Australian holy warrior was one of poor electronic reception, intermittent running water - which sometimes contained worms - and only sporadic electricity to charge your iPhone.

Biber said the recruits slept on "spongy mattresses ... on the floor pretty much wherever in the building you want ... or even outside ... and the toilets are pretty much same as Hajj [Mecca] lol ... so start squatting".

When Alqudsi persisted and asked about "cleaning your private parts???", Biber replied that "water ... toilet paper doesn't exist".

Alqudsi also asked Caner Temel about the conditions and Temel told him that married men were paid $60 a month and food, but they had to pay their own way at restaurants and for clothes.

"Bro foods not prob thank God ... toilets r sitting down' and showered were "from a bucket".

Alqudsi was also interested in weapons and was told that a black AK-47 was "very expensive".

Two days later, Alqudsi told Temel via WhatsApp he was "delaying my migration".

In court last week, Alqudsi told his sentencing hearing that he regretted his role in the Syrian recruitment operation.

"As an Australian, I should have minded my own business," he said.

"I should have told them 'no I can't help you with that', and that' something ... I will regret for the rest of my life.

"I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I am really, really sorry for what I have done."

Justice Christine Adamson, who will pass sentence of up to ten years prison for each of his seven convictions, questioned whether Alqudsi was crying "crocodile tears" in her court.

- news.com.au

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