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Man Accused in Baath Party Murder Plot Appears in Australian Court - 2004-07-16


A man has appeared in an Australian court accused of plotting to kill members of Saddam Hussein's former ruling Baath Party in Iraq. The man was arrested in an operation by police and counterterrorism units in the West Australian city of Perth.

Prosecutors claim the 40-year-old Iraqi-born man planned a series of assassinations against members of the former government in Baghdad.

Appearing before magistrates in Perth, Friday, a barefoot Khairallah al-Bunajim looked tired and confused. The prosecution claims he sent money to Iraq to pay for the murders of Baath Party officials. The identities of the alleged targets were not disclosed.

Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty said Mr. al-Bunajim has been living in Australia "for a number of years."

He was arrested at his suburban home in Perth. Documents and a computer hard drive were also seized. He was not required to enter a plea and has been ordered held in custody.

The man's lawyer calls the case against him "flimsy."

Mr. Keelty says the arrest is proof that Australia's measures to combat terrorism are working.

"This follows the work of our joint counterterrorism in both New South Wales and Western Australia and represents the ongoing commitment of the joint counterterrorism teams around Australia," he said.

Prime Minister John Howard said he couldn't comment on the investigation but he stressed that Australia can not be complacent when it comes to terrorist threats.

In May, Jack Roche, a Muslim convert, became Australia's first convicted terrorist when he was jailed for nine years for plotting to bomb the Israeli embassy in Canberra.

Roche was arrested in a series of raids by Australian security services in the aftermath of the Bali bombings in October 2002, in which more than 200 people died.

The government also has confirmed that the suspected leader of the Australian arm of the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist group has been found in Indonesia.

Officials say the Australian government has no immediate plans to extradite Adbul Rahim Ayub, who has dual Indonesian and Australian citizenship.

Jemaah Islamiyah, or J.I., is accused of carrying out the attack on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, in which 88 Australians were killed.

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