Five men convicted of a terrorist conspiracy in Australia's biggest city, Sydney, have been given jail sentences of 23 to 28 years. The men were found guilty late last year of charges that included possessing bomb-making instructions and explosive chemicals.
Prosecutors argued the five men were planning terrorist attacks to protest Australia's military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The New South Wales Supreme Court heard evidence that the group had stockpiled chemicals, weapons and ammunition. The men, all Australian Muslims, were convicted of conspiring to commit a terrorist act last October at the end of the country's longest terrorism trial. Hundreds of witnesses testified.
In handing down the sentence Monday, Justice Anthony Whealy said the men were motivated by an "intolerant, inflexible religious conviction", and had hoarded documents that glorified Osama Bin Laden and promoted violent jihad.
"Each offender had at his home, in one form or another, a vast quantity of extremist or fundamentalist material,” said the judge. “There are images showing injured or deceased Muslim civilians and/or soldiers. The images were clearly designed to evoke sympathy and distress from Muslim viewers."
The group's alleged target has never been made public, although court documents suggested they had discussed killing former Australian Prime Minister John Howard or bombing a major sporting event.
Investigators say one defendant attended a militant training camp in Pakistan, while three others set up a paramilitary hideaway in the Australian outback.
The men had pleaded not guilty to the charges. Under a court order, their names cannot be released.
Outside the court, one of the men's sisters said the group had been unfairly victimized by Australia's security services. "You know that the only judge that matters is God and he knows of your innocence and one day they will meet him face to face knowing the treatment of him is a disgrace," she said.
The five were arrested in 2005 followed tip-offs from hardware store and gun shop owners. Their lawyers have yet to decide whether to file an appeal. Under Australian law, the men could be freed on parole in 17 to 21 years.