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Australian Found Guilty Of Accepting Funds From al-Qaida


An Australian convert to Islam has been found guilty of receiving money from al-Qaida. Thirty two-year-old Joseph Thomas is the first Australian to be convicted under tough new counterterrorism laws introduced in the wake of the attacks in the United States in September 2001.

The former taxi driver faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in jail.

A jury in the southern city of Melbourne found Thomas guilty of accepting $3,500 and a plane ticket from an al-Qaida agent in Pakistan.

Thomas told the court he accepted the money because he wanted to return home but had no intention of becoming an al-Qaida operative.

His lawyer Rob Stary says he is pleased Thomas was found not guilty of the more serious charges, which included helping Osama Bin Laden plan a terrorist attack in Australia.

"The fact that Jack Thomas has been acquitted of not supporting a terrorist organization or being a resource for a terrorist organization, which were the two most serious charges in our view, is a very significant victory," said Stary.

Thomas is the first Australian to be charged under laws on the funding of terrorism passed in 2002.

The Australian government says his conviction proves the legislation is working.

Thomas - known here as 'Jihad Jack' - was arrested in Australia in 2004 after being held on suspicion of terrorism offenses in Pakistan.

Prosecutors claimed he trained with al-Qaida over the border in Afghanistan and was a so-called 'sleeper' agent for the terrorist network.

Thomas will appeal against his conviction and is due back in court for a pre-sentence hearing later this week.