SYDNEY (AP) – Five Muslim men were convicted Friday of plotting Australia’s largest terrorist conspiracy as part of a bid to force the government to change its policy on Middle East conflicts.
After a month of deliberations, a New South Wales state Supreme Court jury found the men guilty of conspiring to commit acts in preparation for a terrorist plot, after prosecutors said they had stockpiled bomb-making instructions and purchased explosive chemicals.
A sentencing hearing was set for Dec. 14, and they face a maximum penalty of life in prison.
During the trial, which began in November 2008, prosecutor Richard Maidment told the jury that the men planned to use explosive devices or firearms to commit “extreme violence” in Australia. Prosecutors never identified the men’s alleged target.
Justice Anthony Whealy restricted the media from publishing the men’s names on the Internet.
The men, aged between 25 and 44, were arrested in a series of raids on their homes in 2005. Maidment said during the trial that the raids turned up bomb-making instructions and militant Islamist material, including footage of planes flying into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and images of beheadings. The prosecutor also said the men purchased explosive chemicals and guns between July 2004 and November 2005.
The jury, which viewed more than 3,000 exhibits and heard from more than 300 witnesses, was also told one man participated in a terrorist-run paramilitary training camp in Pakistan, and three others attended similar camps in New South Wales to prepare for an attack.
Lawyers for the men argued there were innocent explanations for the material. Outside court, supporters of some of the men shouted angrily after the verdict. Whealy had instructed the jury to put aside any prejudices when coming to its verdict and to remember that the Muslim faith was not on trial.