Former actor becomes 17th terrorist

A former actor has become the 17th person charged in the wake of anti-terrorism raids, as Australia's Muslims say they fear a redneck backlash against their community. Former Home and Away actor Omar Baladjam, wounded in an alleged shootout with Sydney police, was charged at a hospital bedside court sitting with 13 offences including planning a terrorist act and the attempted murder of two police officers.

Baladjam, 28, was one of 17 people arrested on Tuesday in a wave of counter-terrorism raids in Sydney and Melbourne which police allege foiled a large scale terrorist attack.

A police officer was slightly wounded in the alleged shootout with Baladjam, who is in a stable condition after being shot in the neck, and who was on Tuesday remanded in custody to appear in a Sydney court on Friday.

Baladjam, who also appeared in the ABC crime drama Wildside, also faces firearms and assault charges.

Eight Sydney men have now been charged with plotting a terrorist act, while nine in Melbourne, including alleged leader and Muslim cleric Abdul Nacer Benbrika, have been charged with membership of a terrorist organisation.

At least one of the men was prepared to carry out a suicide attack, while others had undergone military training or had gathered chemicals like those used in suicide bombings on the London Underground in July, a court has been told.

Two of the Melbourne accused were on Wednesday refused bail by a magistrate who said evidence of a group's alleged plot for violent jihad was "extremely alarming".

However, magistrate Reg Marron also said evidence of links between the Sydney and Melbourne groups was "vague and unclear" and he described the prosecution case as a "work in progress".

After being denied bail, Melbourne men Hany Taha, 31, and Abdulla Merhi, 20, were sent to join their co-accused in solitary confinement in Victoria's maximum security Barwon Prison.

Police said fresh charges were likely as investigators sifted through evidence, including computers, seized in the raids by ASIO officers and hundreds of police.

Another home was raided in Sydney on Tuesday night but no-one was charged.

Meanwhile, a national security hotline had received almost 200 tip-offs following Tuesday's raids, Attorney General Philip Ruddock said. With suspects charged, senior figures toned down their comments on the raids, after police and politicians on Tuesday claimed the operation had prevented a potentially "catastrophic" attack.

But lawyers for the accused fear that in the current climate, their clients may not get a fair trial.

"We don't want it to be some quaint notion that a person is presumed innocent, we actually want that to come into practice, and we would ask that the community and media would respect that notion," said Melbourne lawyer Rob Stary, who is representing some of the accused.

Sydney lawyer Adam Houda added: "All my clients want is a fair trial but that might be difficult under this current political climate - trial by media and irresponsible public officials shooting from the lip."

While many Muslim leaders have spoken in support of the raids, some fear a backlash.

President of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils Dr Ameer Ali met on Wednesday with Mr Ruddock to seek greater protection for his community.

"My people are afraid that it is on occasions like this the rednecks can create havoc," he said, while also calling on radical clerics to tone down their rhetoric.

Prime Minister John Howard sought to reassure the Muslim community it was not being targeted, reports the AP. I.L.

Subscribe to Pravda.Ru Telegram channel, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, RSS!

Author`s name Editorial Team