Clad in military fatigues, Sydney man Ahmed Merhi holds a large assault rifle while posing for a photo.
Clad in military fatigues, Sydney man Ahmed Merhi holds a large assault rifle while posing for a photo.

Aussie terrorist sentenced to die by hanging

SYDNEY terrorist Ahmed Merhi has begged Australia for help after he was sentenced to death in a court in Iraq.

The 27-year-old former Granville Boys High School student, part of a large Sydney family, was convicted in the Central Criminal Court in Baghdad of being a member of Islamic State.

He was sentenced to die by hanging, with Judge Suhail rejecting his claims he had travelled to Syria to perform aid work.

Merhi accepted the verdict quietly, but told News Corp Australia he had been wrongly convicted and wanted to come home, as he urged the country he had turned his back on to help him.

Sydney man Ahmed Merhi poses for a selfie in a photo uploaded to his Facebook on April 12, 2015.
Sydney man Ahmed Merhi poses for a selfie in a photo uploaded to his Facebook on April 12, 2015.

"I'd like to go back to Australia,'' he said.

"Iraq has no right to hold me or prosecute me.

"There's no justice. There was no evidence, no witnesses.

"I'm a good person.''

He asked Australia to intervene "if it is possible.''

"I'd like them to help me … by getting me justice and getting me released,'' he said.

The Australian Government is highly unlikely to take any steps to assist Merhi, who was one of the country's earliest and most high-profile Islamic State supporters.

Merhi, who had posted numerous photographs on social media dressed in military uniforms and brandishing weapons, lost a leg in an air strike in 2016, and was trying to escape Syria to Turkey when he was arrested.

"My photos with guns on social media came because there are a lot of guns in Syria and men like guns,'' he told News Corp Australia.

"So I took some photos and posted them on my Facebook.

"It's like people who take photos with Ferraris. It doesn't mean they own them.

"Or men, who take photos with models, it doesn't mean they're their wives.''

A confession Merhi was alleged to have made to a separate court, marked with his finger stamp, was used in the court case against him.

Merhi told the court he only made the finger stamp on a white piece of paper, a form of signature, because he had been tortured, and that any confession was false.

He had previously complained of torture at the hands of the Iraqi counter-terrorism officials, but the judge said last night that a medical examination had found no physical marks of torture on his body.

Merhi asked to show the judge marks of torture on his hands, but the judge said he had already been examined by specialists.

"It was just my word against my own (word),'' he said.

"There wasn't even a report by the Americans about this.''

His case now goes to an automatic appeal within 10 days and could take up to two years to be finalised.

Sydney man Ahmed Merhi poses for a selfie in a photo uploaded to his Facebook on April 12, 2015 with friends.
Sydney man Ahmed Merhi poses for a selfie in a photo uploaded to his Facebook on April 12, 2015 with friends.

Merhi's lawyers also have 30 days to present evidence to an appeals court.

Merhi, a former Sydney builder and FIFO mine worker, travelled to Syria in 2014 or 2015 to join Islamic State, and was captured by Kurdish soldiers on December 27, 2017.

They handed him to American troops who took him across the border to Iraq and gave him over to Iraqi authorities.

He was captured along with his Lebanese cousin, Tarek Khayat, who has also been sentenced to death by hanging after admitting being a financial officer for Islamic State in its Syrian capital of al-Raqqa.

Khayat is accused in Australia and Lebanon of being the ringleader of a plot to bring down an Etihad Airways flight out of Sydney using two bombs allegedly planted in a meat mincer and a Barbie doll.

Tarek Khayat, the alleged Barbie doll bomber who plotted to blow up an Emirates plane leaving Sydney.
Tarek Khayat, the alleged Barbie doll bomber who plotted to blow up an Emirates plane leaving Sydney.

Police in Australia say Merhi was involved with a network of Australian extremists who were involved in a number of terror plots, including one which saw police accountant Curtis Cheng shot dead as he left work at the Parramatta police station in October 2015.

Mr Cheng was murdered by a radicalised 15-year-old, Farhad Mohamad Jabar, who was shot dead by police.

Merhi told News Corp Australia the case against his cousin, who remains on death row, had been sent for reinvestigation by the appeals court, and that the case had to start again "from scratch.''

He said he believed the same thing may happen to his case.

An official from the Australian Embassy in Baghdad was in the court as an observer.