SYDNEY (AFP) – Nine Muslims accused of stockpiling chemicals and explosive detonators have been ordered to stand trial on charges of planning terror attacks in Sydney, Australian court officials said Tuesday.
Magistrate Michael Price on Monday ruled that the men must stand trial after they were arrested last year in Australia’s largest-ever counter-terrorism operation, a court official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“The nine were committed to stand trial in the Supreme Court and will appear in that court on June 1, 2007,” the official said.
The nine appeared in March in a magistrates court in Penrith, west of Sydney, under a heavy blanket of security to allow Price to establish if they had a case to answer.
They were charged with planning terrorist strikes in Australia’s most populous city, Sydney, reportedly including the bombing of its Lucas Heights nuclear reactor.
They were arrested in Sydney in November 2005 as part of a crackdown by security services in which a total of 18 Muslims were detained there and in Melbourne.
The nine suspects had allegedly been urged by their leader, an Islamic cleric, to inflict “maximum damage” in Australia for the sake of jihad, or holy war.
At the time of their arrest, police alleged group members attended jihad training camps, stockpiled chemicals and detonators to make explosives and planned a “large-scale terrorist attack”.
A court last September ordered 11 men to stand trial on terrorism charges.
The prosecutor in that case said the men were strongly inspired by Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and one of the accused, cleric Abdul Nacer Benbrika, had urged the others to wage holy war and wreak havoc.
They were arrested days after the government passed tough new anti-terrorism legislation making it easier for police to prosecute suspects involved in the early stages of planning attacks.