A Sydney man has been jailed for 15 years after he led a terrorist organisation that planned to attack the Mardi Gras, a naval base, a courthouse, and Australian Federal Police officers who attended court.
Hamdi Alqudsi, 48, faced trial in the NSW Supreme Court accused of directing the activities of an organisation known as “the Shura”, which plotted attacks between August and December 2014. After hearing weeks of evidence, a jury found him guilty last year.
Justice Stephen Rothman said on Tuesday the Shura was formed to help people travel to Syria to fight, but it soon shifted to plotting domestic terrorism. Alqudsi described himself as the commander of the group.
Rothman said the group discussed pledging allegiance to Islamic State or al-Qaeda, including by flying an IS flag on Sydney Harbour Bridge, and having someone come to Sydney from Syria to teach them to make improvised explosive devices.
The group was going to pick targets and held several meetings where suggestions included an attack on the Garden Island naval base in Sydney, an attack on AFP officers at court, the Sydney Mardi Gras, the Israeli embassy and random attacks on “unbelievers”.
Alqudsi claimed he had been given the green light from IS to attack the naval base, the judge said.
Rothman said the planning was at its early stages when Alqudsi and others in his group were arrested, but “such an occurrence says more about law enforcement agencies and their capacity than it does about the offender”.
“There can be no doubt on the evidence before the court that the conduct was contemplated and would have been catastrophic,” the judge said.
He jailed Alqudsi for 15 years, with a non-parole period of 11 years and three months, backdated to 2019 to include time already served in custody.
Rothman said an attack on the naval base would have involved loss of life and serious injury, as would the attack on the court, and said both targets were involved in the function of democracy.
“An attack on the Mardi Gras, particularly if it occurred by way of improvised explosive device – for which training was to have been received – would have been horrendous and targeted innocent members of the public,” Rothman said.
He said there had been some evidence of contrition and remorse, in the form of Alqudsi indicating that he no longer held extremist beliefs, but “on the balance of probabilities I do not accept that the contrition is genuine or the remorse real”.
Rothman said he was also not satisfied Alqudsi had expressed remorse for his previous convictions – seven counts of providing services with the intention of supporting hostile acts in Syria in 2013.
He said Alqudsi told an imam in custody that he had only been engaged in charitable work when he supplied people overseas, but the claim “could not have been genuine”.
Alqudsi will be eligible for parole in February 2031.
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