Oz court told detained man 'deceived' al-Qaeda to get ticket home

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Melbourne, Oct.21 : An Australian man who escaped from Afghanistan has pleaded not guilty to intentionally receiving funds from a terrorist organisation, and possessing a falsified Australian passport.

The prosecution is projecting thirty-five-year-old Joseph (Jack) Terrence Thomas as a person who "deceived al-Qaeda" by accepting a plane ticket and 3500 dollars in cash on the promise that he would carry out a terror strike in Australia. But he had no intention of carrying out the attack, the Australian Supreme Court has heard.

The Age quoted prosecutor Nicholas Robinson as telling the Supreme Court that Thomas admitted taking the ticket and money from senior al-Qaeda figure Khaled bin Attash after he suggested that Australia needed an attack like those on US embassies in Nairobi and Kenya.

"He took them intending not to work. In other words, in colloquial terms, he sold the handpass. He deceived al-Qaeda," Mr Robinson said. "He wasn't naive ... but he was certainly calculated. He didn't end up with the ticket by accident."

Robinson said that while Thomas had "adopted the persona of young naive boy who got lost in events over his head" in an interview with the ABC's Four Corners, it was clear he was dealing with significant decision-makers in al-Qaeda.

He said Thomas was fleeing the front line after the fall of Kabul when he was plucked from a truck by an al-Qaeda member who told him it was not safe to return to Australia and helped him cross the border.

"Then he's dropped into safe houses in Pakistan. He went over, didn't really know anybody ... had no money, no job, couldn't speak the language and he's moved from house to house. He's looked after by someone. We suggest it's clearly al-Qaeda."

Robinson said Thomas' claim that the ticket and money had come from Pakistan well-wishers sympathetic to the Taliban did not stack up.

"He took the money. He knew where it came from, and who but al-Qaeda would be providing him with maintenance for the time he was training with them?" Robinson said.

"No amount of desperation can justify taking the money. He wanted to get home, sure. He wanted some money, sure. He didn't want the work they were offering, but he wasn't going to tell them that."

Jim Kennan, who is representing Thomas, described the suggestion that his client had defrauded al-Qaeda as "extraordinary". It just highlights what a thin and desperate Crown case this is," he said.

Kennan said Thomas had travelled to Afghanistan with the aim of fighting for the Taliban in its civil war against the Northern Alliance, so it was "common sense" that Pakistanis sympathetic to the Taliban might help him in return.

He said Thomas told Age journalist Ian Munro that he believed bin Attash had "hijacked the situation" by presenting money and tickets that had already been arranged by the Pakistanis.

Kennan said Thomas had altered his passport to disguise a Taliban visa in an effort to avoid being detained and tortured by Pakistani authorities.

He urged the jury: "Don't convict a man when the evidence is not there to sustain the Crown case beyond a reasonable doubt. You can bring justice to this saga in that sense."

Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Curtain is due to make final remarks to the jury tomorrow.

ANI

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