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Australian to appeal al Qaeda funding conviction

Written by: Staff
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Sydney, Feb 27: An Australian man who became the first to be found guilty under tough new anti-terrorism laws is to appeal against his conviction on charges of receiving funds from an associate of Osama bin Laden, his lawyer said on Monday.

Former taxi driver Joseph Terrence Thomas faces up to 25 years in jail after being found guilty on charges of receiving 3,500 dollars and a plane ticket from senior al Qaeda agent Khaled bin Attash after training at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan in 2002.

A jury of nine women and three men yesterday also found him guilty of possessing a false passport.

Thomas, a 32-year-old father of three, was acquitted on two charges that he had intentionally provided support and resources to bin Laden's militant network between July 2002 and January 2003.

Lawyer Robert Stary told reporters in Melbourne that Thomas would appeal against both convictions, delivered after a week-long trial in Victoria state's Supreme Court, once his sentence was handed down.

Thomas faces a pre-sentencing hearing in Melbourne on Thursday.

Stary said Thomas had been interviewed by Australian police in Pakistan in early 2003 after he been threatened during interrogations by Pakistani and American intelligence agents.

He said the interview with Australian police had also been conducted without a lawyer present.

Australian Attorney General Philip Ruddock today rejected criticism made by Thomas's lawyers during the trial that Thomas was the victim of a ''trophy trial'' designed to show that Australian police were being tough on terrorism.

"To suggest that this was some form of trophy trial is quite inappropriate and to suggest that this case demonstrates that people of Muslim faith should not cooperate with authorities is, I think, quite inappropriate for an officer of the court," Ruddock told the Australian parliament in Canberra.

"What this case demonstrates very clearly is that, if you get involved with terrorists and their activities, then you do so at your own peril," he said.

Thomas was the first Australian to be charged with receiving funds from and providing support for al Qaeda and the fifth to face charges under tough anti-terrorism laws introduced by US ally Australia in 2002.

REUTERS

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