A Sydney Court has sentenced a man to 12 years in jail with a minimum of 9 years for publishing an online "terrorism manual". He is the first person to be convicted on the charge of making a document connected with assistance in a terrorist act in Australia. The accused spent three days in 2003 cut and pasting the material which was already on the net into a book called "The Rules of Jihad - Short Judicial Rulings And Organisational Instructions For Fighters And Mujahideen Against Infidels."
Belal Khazaal of Lakemba book was said to advise about terrorist acts such as exploding bombs, shooting down planes and assassinating people such as former US President George W Bush. Khazaal had claimed his book was never intended to incite terrorist acts. At his sentencing in Sydney, Justice Megan Latham said she found it "unsurprising" a jury had rejected his defence.
"The dissemination of extremist activity, connected or unconnected with a terrorist plot, is caught by the government's (anti-terror) scheme ... (because such material) is capable and is shown to foment terrorist activity."
His defence team argued that Khazaal had simply cut and pasted the information from existing sites and that he was not fully responsible for the document. But Judge Megan Latham did not accept that.
"The prisoner has applied himself to the task of searching and downloading from the internet sites a quantity of material which has then been edited, arranged, indexed and footnoted and formatted into a comprehensive document, albeit with few alterations and additions," the judge said. "I do not accept that he had not thereby demonstrated considerable application to the task."
It emerged during his sentincing that In December 2003 a Beirut military court convicted Khazaal in absentia of helping to fund a bombing campaign in Lebanon. He was sentenced to 10 years' jail with hard labour.
When the sentence was handed down, Khazaal supporters hurled abuse at the judge and the bar table, while outside the court they said he had been unfairly treated because he is Muslim.
"We're not happy with this. It's not fair," one supporter said.
"The bloke's not guilty. He's not done nothing.
"We're not interested in this book he made ... have you seen any car bomb in Australia? Have you seen anyone being killed? It's not fair."
CIVIL LIBERTIES QUESTIONS
The case raises questions for the activist community in regards to the limits of free speech. Whilst in this case the material published on the net was advocating violently breaking the law, it is to be hoped that this is not a "slippery slope" to the prosecuting people who advocate for non-violently breaking the law eg civil disobedience.
Also given that the material was already available on the net, and was cut and paste into one document by Khazaal, one questions how effective such law enforcement would actually be in stopping terrorists actually getting their hands on such material.