Skip to comments.Bin Laden's Friend Jihad Jack Freed By Australian Judges
Posted on 08/18/2006 5:32:52 PM PDT by blam
Bin Laden's friend Jihad Jack freed by Australian judges
By Nick Squires in Sydney
A British-born Muslim convert jailed in Australia on charges of receiving money and an airline ticket from al-Qa'eda terrorists, was freed last night after his conviction was overturned.
Joseph Terrence Thomas, 33, nicknamed Jihad Jack after claiming that he had met al-Qa'eda's leader Osama bin Laden three times, was jailed for five years in March.
But in a judgment seen as a blow to the Australian government, the appeal court in Melbourne ruled that some of the evidence used against him was not admissible. It ordered his immediate release and he was driven away from court a free man.
Thomas, a father of three, was accused of being an al-Qa'eda sleeper agent who visited the network's training camps in Afghanistan. He was the first person convicted under tough anti-terror laws introduced by Canberra after the September 11 attacks in America.
Thomas, who changed his surname by deed poll to Jihad, had been found guilty of accepting almost £2,000 and a plane ticket to Australia from an al-Qa'eda operative in Pakistan. He was also convicted of using a false passport.
He had faced a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison, but was sentenced to five and immediately launched an appeal.
He said that he had no intention of becoming an al-Qa'eda agent and simply wanted to be reunited with his family in Australia.
The former taxi driver from Melbourne, who moved to Australia from Britain as a child, was arrested in Pakistan in January 2003 and was interviewed by Australian police two months later.
His defence lawyers argued that the interview should not have been used as evidence against him because he had not been allowed a lawyer. They said he had been threatened with torture and that he was subjected to "cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment" while in Pakistan. His confession was said to have been made under duress during questioning by Pakistani officials, who told him he would end up in Guantanamo Bay if he did not co-operate.
The defence said the case had been "a show trial", staged to prove that the Australian government and security services were cracking down on terrorist threats.
Three appeal judges agreed and ruled in Thomas's favour, quashing the convictions. But he may face a new trial. Prosecutors, who had argued that his sentence should have been longer, said they were examining fresh evidence.
Outside the court, his lawyer, Rob Stary, said that Thomas had been traumatised by the legal battle and thanked his family for their support.
Thomas has said that he converted to Islam because he was seeking spiritual fulfilment.
"I never really thought I would be a Muslim," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "I would say, 'Oh look, you know, I really love your religion, but I really love my beer.' "
He said bin Laden was "very polite and humble and shy" when they met in Afghanistan.
The court's ruling will prove an embarrassment for John Howard, the prime minister, who has been portrayed as President George W Bush's regional "deputy sheriff" in the war against terrorism.
So when do these idiotic governments and judges understand that this is NOT A LAW ENFORCEMENT ISSUE, but a war!
Another excellent reason not to take prisoners, isn't it?