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Australia court sentences Algerian cleric convicted of plotting terrorist attacks

[JURIST] Australia's Supreme Court of Victoria [official website] Tuesday sentenced Algerian cleric [sentencing remarks] Abdul Nacer Benbrika [BBC profile], also known as Abu Bakr, to at least 12 years in prison for his role in plotting large-scale terror attacks aimed at sporting venues and railway stations in Australia. Benrika received a prison sentence of 12 to 15 years after being convicted [JURIST report] on charges [charge list] of directing the activities of a terrorist organization, being a member of a terrorist organization, and possessing a compact disc connected with the preparation of a terrorist attack. In dismissing defense counsel's argument that Benbrika's leadership was tenuous, Justice Bernard Bongiorno wrote:

His leadership may have been less than what would have been expected had he been a trained soldier or even a trained terrorist, and his and his followers’ capacity to carry out a terrorist act may have been less than professional. They may never have got to the point of carrying out a terrorist act. But all of these considerations are of little moment. By its existence, its nature and its activities the organisation fostered and encouraged its members to engage in violent jihad — to perform a terrorist act. By its collection and circulation of terrorist material it prepared, however indirectly, the doing of a terrorist act. These constitute the substance of the criminality in this case.
Six other men also received prison sentences [Age report] of between four-and-a-half and seven-and-a-half years on Monday for their roles in the plot.

Benbrika was one of six men convicted on terrorism charges in September 2008. Benbrika and 12 others were arrested after the Australian Parliament [official website] passed emergency anti-terror legislation [JURIST report] allowing authorities to prosecute suspects without connecting them to a specific threat. Opponents have criticized the expanded prosecutorial powers included in the legislation, arguing that they threaten civil liberties [HRW press release].

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