MELBOURNE, Australia, Nov 24 (AFP) – Suspected terrorist “Jihad” Jack Thomas was refused bail here Wednesday after a court was told he was sent home to Australia to become “a sleeper” after being trained by an Al-Qaeda military camp in Afghanistan.
Muslim convert Joseph Terrence Thomas, 31, who is also known as Jack but who changed his name to “Jihad”, was arrested during a raid by Victoria state counter-terrorism police at his home in Melbourne’s western suburbs on Thursday.
Prosecutor Richard Maidment told Melbourne Magistrates Court that Thomas had trained at an Al-Qaeda military camp in Afghanistan prior to the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001.
Maidment said Thomas had spent three months of 2001 at the Farouk training camp where he learned how to use a range of weapons and also “personally saw at close quarters Osama bin Laden (news – web sites)” who wanted someone to conduct surveillance operations in Australia.
Thomas travelled to Pakistan between July 2002 and January 2003 where he stayed at various Al-Qaeda safe houses and discussed a plan to break out a Guantanamo Bay inmate.
He was also alleged to have taken part in terrorism discussions, including a plan to bring down a jet carrying Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
The former taxi driver has been charged with receiving financial support from Al-Qaeda, providing the network with resources or support to help them carry out a terrorist act and having a false passport.
The court also heard that Al-Qaeda gave Thomas 3,500 dollars (2,750 US dollars) and a Qantas airline ticket to return home after being asked by one of bin Laden’s associates to carry out operations in Australia involving surveillance of military installations.
He was also instructed to maintain a normal lifestyle as “a sleeper” before contacting the terrorist network.
Maidment said Thomas made full admissions in an interview with the Australian Federal Police while he was being held by authorities in Pakistan last year.
The court was also told Thomas and his Indonesian wife were associates of Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir whom Thomas had met in Malaysia in March 2000.
Defence lawyer Robert Stary told the hearing Bashir and Thomas’s wife were childhood friends.
He said Thomas did not have a lawyer present when he made admissions in Pakistan.
Stary said Thomas was not a flight risk because he had family ties and was working in Melbourne and the prosecution case against him was weak.
Magistrate Ian Gray said while he would not describe the prosecution case as “extraordinarily strong” he did not believe it was weak and it contained elements of strength.
He dismissed Thomas’s plea for bail, and remanded him in custody saying he faced “extremely serious charges” and exceptional circumstances needed to be demonstrated for him to be released on bail.