Hamdi Alqudsi, 48, was sentenced in the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday, seven months after a jury found him guilty of directing the activities of Islamic State-aligned terror group, The Shura, from August to December 2014.
Justice Stephen Rothman found that while planning for numerous attacks was still in its infancy, the end result if the plots had been carried out would have been “horrendous”.
“The terrorist acts that were contemplated or discussed … were most serious, involving significant loss of life to many and injury to others,” the judge said.
The Shura’s plans included attacks on the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, the Israeli embassy, the Garden Island Naval Base in Woolloomooloo, and a targeted strike on the Australian Federal Police at a NSW Supreme Court hearing.
The idea of beheading an “unbeliever” and draping their body in an Islamic State (IS) flag, and having someone affiliated with IS fly to Sydney to teach the group how to make improvised explosive devices were also mentioned.
Directing this terrorist group was “well above the mid-range in objective seriousness,” Rothman noted.
Alqudsi’s full 15-year jail term will expire on November 10, 2034.
His non-parole period of eight years and three months will expire on February 10, 2031.
The group pledged allegiance to IS in August 2014.
Alqudsi was the “commander” or “emir” of the Shura and held numerous meetings with members where they discussed potential terror plots, using phone jammers and whiteboards to jot down notes and avoid surveillance by authorities.
The terror boss is already behind bars, convicted in September 2016 after the Shura worked to send members to Syria.
For these acts, he was sentenced to eight years in prison, expiring on July 11, 2024.
His six-year non-parole period ended on July 11 last year however he was not released because of the criminal proceedings which ended on Tuesday.
Alqudsi has always denied having any involvement in the Shura, including in an interview with the Australian Border Force when stopped at Sydney Airport where he claimed to be on a pilgrimage to the Hajj.
It was possible he then planned to fly to Turkey and then Syria, Rothman noted.
His denials, while seeming reasonable at the time, were “plainly disingenuous,” the judge said.
Rothman also did not accept Alqudsi’s disavowal of extremist behaviour and claims he followed a more “moderate” form of Islam which were made to Muslim chaplain Ahmed Kilani while in prison.
“It is difficult to accept the opinion of (Kilani) without Mr Alqudsi giving evidence himself.”
He had also not shown any real remorse or contrition for his conduct, the judge said.
Alqudsi’s conviction is only the second handed down in Australia for directing the activities of a terrorist group, which carries a maximum prison term of 25 years.
The first was for Abdul Nacer Benbrika, who encouraged a bomb attack on the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
He was jailed for 15 years in 2009 but will remain behind bars until November this year on a continuing detention order due to a risk of reoffending.