Case study: Three men jailed for terror attack on shia mosque
On 24 July 2019, the Supreme Court of Victoria sentenced Mr Ahmed Mohamed (26), Mr Abdullah Chaarani (28) and Mr Hatim Moukhaiber (31) to lengthy prison terms for engaging in a terrorist act contrary to s101.1(1) of the Criminal Code 2010 (Cth). The terrorist act involved setting fire to a Shia mosque in suburban Melbourne on 11 December 2016. The fire caused over $1.5 million in damage to the mosque, requiring its demolition. Mr Mohamed and Mr Chaarani were also found guilty, convicted and sentenced for their role in an earlier and unsuccessful attempt to burn down the same mosque in November 2016.
A jury had returned verdicts of guilty in May of 2019 following a six week trial, preceded by eight weeks of pre‑trial proceedings. The jury had considered CCTV footage taken at the mosque, intercepted communications between the offenders’ and evidence of the offenders support for Islamic State (IS). The Court found these crimes, which had been motivated by hatred and intolerance, had been committed to advance the cause of IS and inflict terror upon entirely innocent Shia Muslims living peacefully in the community.
The offenders were each sentenced as follows:
- Mr Ahmed Mohamed was sentenced to be imprisoned for 22 years. A non‑parole period of 17 years was fixed.
- Mr Abdullah Chaarani was sentenced to be imprisoned for 22 years. A non‑parole period of 17 years was fixed.
- Mr Hatim Moukhaiber was sentenced to be imprisoned for 16 years. A non‑parole period of 12 years was fixed.
On 17 April 2020, the Victorian Court of Appeal dismissed appeals brought by the three offenders against their convictions. On 15 May 2020, Mr Chaarani and Mr Moukhaiber filed Special Applications for Leave to Appeal to the High Court of Australia.
At an earlier trial in August 2018, Mr Chaarani and Mr Mohammed had also been found guilty by another jury of conspiring to do acts in preparation of, or planning for, a terrorist act contrary to s101.6(1) of the Criminal Code 2010 (Cth). That terrorist act involved a plot, with co‑conspirators Mr Ibrahim Abbas and Mr Hamza Abbas, to commit a mass casualty attack in Federation Square in December 2016. The attack was to involve the detonation of improvised explosives and/or the use of bladed weapons and firearms. Unlike the attack on the mosque, these crimes were preparatory in nature. Nevertheless, the Court found that they constituted an assault on the fundamental values of our society. Mr Chaarani and Mr Mohamed were each sentenced to a further term of imprisonment of 26 years for this offending, 16 years of which will be served in addition to the sentences imposed in relation to the Mosque attack offending.
As a result of the sentences imposed in both matters, Mr Chaarani and Mr Mohamed are each serving a total effective sentence of imprisonment of 38 years. A single non‑parole period of 28 years and six months was fixed.