Terror plotters laugh as guilty verdict delivered
A trio of wannabe terrorists pulled faces and laughed as they were found guilty of planning a devastating terror attack in the heart of Melbourne's CBD.
Almost two weeks after verdicts were delivered it can finally be revealed that the group were found guilty of plotting with co-conspirator Ibrahim Abbas, 24, who confessed to wanting to slaughter scores of innocent Victorians as payback for Australia's war on Islamic State.
He planned to stage the attack around Federation Square, with St Paul's Cathedral and Flinders St Station identified as possible attack sites.
Ibrahim pleaded guilty to planning an attack while his brother Hamza Abbas, cousin Abudllah Chaarani and friend Ahmed Mohamed, denied any involvement.
But a Supreme Court jury found the three of them guilty of an identical charge earlier this month following a ten-week trial.
The Herald Sun had been prevented from publishing the verdicts after lawyers for two of the men applied to have them suppressed for legal reasons.
The application was refused by Justice Christopher Beale but was immediately appealed.
The Court of Appeal yesterday dismissed that appeal meaning the verdicts can now be made public.
The jury had deliberated for a week before handing down their unanimous verdicts.
Supporters in the public gallery remained silent after a stern warning from Justice Christopher Beale about appropriate court behaviour.
Other supporters watched on from a nearby anteroom after being banned from wearing niqabs in court.
The group spent months planning the homegrown attack in which they planned to use machetes to kill members of the public before detonating suicide vests.
The men purchased chemicals, explosive substances, and other components to make a bomb, bought bladed weapons and conducted reconnaissance in the CBD.
They had tried making homemade bombs with materials bought from Bunnings and Chemist Warehouse and tested their handiwork during a series of trips to country Victoria.
Ibrahim later admitted they were too stupid to make the bombs work despite trying to follow an instructional video.
"We couldn't really follow the video properly, like, it wasn't - I couldn't - um, I wasn't able to make a bomb with the hydrogen peroxide," he said.
"We just straight off memory tried to reconstruct the bomb and I think that's why it didn't work," he said.
The key witness in the trial, Ibrahim insisted he was the ringleader and architect of the plan and his co-conspirators hapless sidekicks with little involvement.
He described himself as Jesus, and the trio as his disciples, saying he worked tirelessly to convince them to take part in an attack but they weren't interested.
It was a story the jury didn't buy.
The group was arrested on December 22, 2016, after months of surveillance by anti-terror police.
At the time authorities feared an attack was imminent.
Ibrahim, who told the court of his plan in chilling detail, had urged the group to act by Christmas day of that year.
"I wanted to make sure that the casualties would be high. The bigger the better," he said.
"The bigger the more terror is achieved, and that's the point."
The 24-year-old, who was born and raised in Melbourne, admitted discussing his terrorism plans with the three accused and had tried to build a bomb with Mr Mohamed.
Abbas said he was prepared to die for his belief saying: "The whole point of jihad is martyrdom."
"I believed that if I could do a terrorist attack here then that would prevent the Australian government from financing the war against Islamic State and it would send a clear message to the Australian public about the damage, the loss of lives, that occurs in the Muslim world where the Australian government is financing the war against Islamic State."
An extremist video found on Chaarani's phone showed pictures of Federation Square, St Paul's Cathedral and the Yarra River and called for watchers to "come to martyrdom".
The trio will return to court for a pre-sentence hearing at a later date.