Australian terror suspect pleads innocent to lying charges

An Australian terror suspect facing a possible life sentence for allegedly plotting a terrorist attack pleaded innocent in court Wednesday on separate charges of lying to Australia's top spy agency about his relationship to a French man accused of having links to al-Qaida.

Abdul Rakib Hasan, 36, is charged with two counts of making false or misleading statements to the Australian Security Intelligence Organization when he was questioned in 2003 about his relationship with the French suspect, Willie Brigitte.

Australian officials believe Brigitte was planning a terrorist attack in Sydney before he was deported in October 2003 to France, where he is in custody on suspicion of having links to al-Qaida.

Investigators allege that Hasan knew of Brigitte's plans to attack an Australian target and helped him find three safe houses in Sydney.

Hasan, a halal butcher from Sydney's southwest, appeared in Sydney's Central Local Court via a video link and indicated through his lawyer that he would plead innocent to the charges.

Hasan was free on bail when he was arrested along with 17 other men last week in sweeping terror raids across Australia. The eight men arrested in Sydney were charged with conspiracy to manufacture explosives for a terrorist attack, while the 10 Melbourne men were charged with belonging to a terrorist group.

All 18 face possible life sentences if convicted, AP reported. V.A.

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