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First Australian convicted under new anti-terrorism laws

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Former taxi driver Joseph Terrence Thomas has become the first Australian convicted under new new anti-terrorism laws.

Thomas was convicted by a Supreme Court jury of receiving a plane ticket and AU$4,740 (US$3,500) from Al-Qaeda associate Khalid bin Attash. The 32-year-old was also convicted of having a Pakistani visa changed to appear that he had been in the area for two weeks, instead of two-and-a-half years.

The jury acquitted Thomas on further charges of intentionally providing himself as a resource at the Al Farooq terrorist training camp in Afghanistan and of agreeing to become a sleeper agent for Al-Qaeda in Australia.

During the trial, prosecutor Nicolas Robinson alleged that Thomas told Australian Federal Police officers that Al-Qaeda wanted him to conduct surveillance of Australian military installations.

Outside the court, Thomas’s father, Ian Thomas, told reporters he was happy his son had been acquitted of the more serious charges. "The acquittal has been a great victory - I've always supported our son and family and will continue," he said.

Thomas’s wife, Maryati Thomas, said she was relieved Thomas was not convicted of all charges. "It's a big victory for us, the fact that he's here and all the family have been standing right next to us," she said.

Federal Attorney General Philip Ruddock said the convictions show Australia’s new anti-terrorism laws are working. "The importance of not engaging with terrorist organisations and in this case receiving money from such an organisation ought not be underestimated by the broader community,” he said.

Defence barrister Lex Lasry applied for bail, telling the court that Thomas had no previous convictions and had already spent time in custody in Pakistan and three months in the maximum security Acacia Unit at Barwon Prison. Justice Philip Cummins remanded Thomas into custody for a pre-sentencing hearing on March 2, 2006.

Thomas faces a maximum of 25 years imprisonment for receiving funds from Al-Qaeda and a maximum of two years imprisonment for altering his visa.

Sources