Case study: Last offender sentenced for the terrorist killing of Curtis Cheng
On 9 August 2019, one of the CDPP’s most high‑profile and important series of cases came to a close when Mr Mustafa Dirani (25) was sentenced for his role in the act of terrorism that resulted in the death of NSW Police accountant, Mr Curtis Cheng. Mr Cheng was shot dead outside the New South Wales Police Headquarters in Parramatta by 15 year old Farhad Mohammad on 2 October 2015. Mr Mohammad was killed by police after firing several shots at officers who had responded to the attack. In the robes he was wearing at the time, police found a note that said he had come “to put terror into your hearts”.
Mr Dirani helped Mr Raban Alou to obtain the handgun, which was ultimately used in the terrorist act. His role included acting as lookout while the firearm was obtained from another offender, Mr Talal Alameddine, on the day that Mr Cheng was killed. Mr Dirani also provided religious and ideological support and encouragement to his co‑conspirators, he provided money to assist in the purchase of the handgun and accompanied Mr Alou to meetings with Mr Alameddine prior to the handgun being obtained.
Following a jury trial in the New South Wales Supreme Court which ran for seven weeks and which was preceded by one week of pre‑trial proceedings, Mr Dirani was found guilty and sentenced on 9 August 2019 to a term of imprisonment of 28 years for conspiring with Mr Alou and Mr Atai to do acts in preparation for a terrorist act contrary to s101.6(1) of the Criminal Code 2010 (Cth). A non‑parole period of 21 years was fixed. Mr Dirani was the last offender in these series of prosecutions to be sentenced. The Court found that Mr Dirani played a significant part in the conspiracy, was a deeply radicalised supporter of Islamic State and was actively involved in the indoctrination of others. Mr Dirani has lodged an appeal against his conviction and sentence which is listed for hearing in the New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal in 2021.
The police investigation of Mr Alou, Mr Atai and Mr Dirani began as part of Operation Peqin‑Fellows, a NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team investigation commenced in response to the unlawful killing of Mr Cheng. Mr Dirani’s co‑accused were previously sentenced as follows:
- Mr Raban Alou was sentenced on 1 March 2018 to a term of imprisonment of 44 years. A non‑parole period of 33 years was fixed. On 4 October 2019, an appeal against the severity of this sentence was dismissed by the New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal. On 12 June 2020, an application for special leave to appeal to the High Court of Australia was also dismissed.
- Mr Milad Atai was sentenced on 23 November 2018 to a term of imprisonment of 38 years. A non‑parole period of 28 years and 6 months was fixed. On 2 June 2020, an appeal against the severity of this sentence was heard by the New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal and the judgment is currently reserved.
- Mr Talal Alameddine was sentenced on 18 May 2018 to a term of imprisonment of 17 years and eight months. A non‑parole period of 13 years and six months was fixed. On 18 September 2020, the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal granted Mr Alameddine leave to appeal against this sentence, and in lieu imposed an aggregate sentence of 14 years imprisonment, with a non‑parole period of 10 years and six months.