He claims to have fooled al-Qaeda; did he fool the court as well?
“Australia’s ‘Jihad Jack’ free,” from the Straits Times, October 29:
MELBOURNE – AN AUSTRALIAN Muslim convert walked free on Wednesday after a years-long legal battle when a judged sentenced him to jail for holding a falsified passport, but released him due to time already served.
Joseph (Jack) Thomas was the first Australian to be convicted under anti-terrorism laws introduced after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US and subsequently dubbed ‘Jihad Jack’ by the media.
But the conviction for receiving money from the Al-Qaeda terror network while he was in Afghanistan was later quashed and a second trial last week cleared the 35-year-old of the charge.
He was sentenced on Wednesday to a nine-month jail term for possessing a falsified passport but was immediately released because he had already spent that time in custody.
The decision ends Thomas’ five-and-a-half year legal battle which has seen him undergo two trials and spend some 265 days in jail in Australia.
The court heard that Thomas had changed the Taliban visa for Afghanistan in his passport because he felt that leaving it there would be a ‘one way ticket to Guantanamo Bay’.
Thomas entered Afghanistan in 2001 before the September 11 attacks and was arrested in neighbouring Pakistan in January 2003 as he attempted he return to Australia. He was held in detention in Pakistan for six months without charge.
In 2006, an Australian court convicted him of accepting funds from Al-Qaeda.
He was released that August when the court of appeal quashed the conviction, ruling that an Australian police interview with Thomas in Pakistan in 2003 was conducted under duress and was therefore inadmissible.
Thomas’ lawyer Jim Kennan said his client was relieved at the outcome.
‘We’re just pleased that the matter has now finally concluded,’ he said outside court. — AFP