An alleged “terrorist leader” planned to attack the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, a court has been told.
Hamdi Alqudsi, 48, appeared before the Supreme Court of New South Wales on Monday (18 July) on charges of with intentionally directing a terrorist organisation which was preparing to carry out an attack.
He allegedly formed the Shura, which means “consultation council” in Arabic, in 2013 in an effort to travel to Syria and “fight against the commonwealth”, according to crown prosecutor Patricia McDonald SC.
After “overt action by police” halted and eventually stopped their plans, the group’s attention turned to “domestic terrorist activity”, according to McDonald.
“The crown case is that initial activities of the Shura were disrupted by police through cancellations of passports, the exercise of arrests and search warrants,” she said.
“Once they were frustrated in their initial focus, what occurred over time was refocusing and a focusing on performing, fostering domestic terrorist acts.”
The group allegedly planned to attack several different locations, including the Woolloomooloo naval base, the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, the Sydney Israeli embassy and other tourist locations in the city.
The jury was told by McDonald that evidence includes correspondence which “sets out some of the proposed details about this attack on the navy base”.
Jurors were told they will also be given evidence about the inner works of the Shura, including first-hand accounts from several members who were allegedly recruited.
Members were told to give a “pledge of allegiance” to the Islamic State, according to McDonald, who also said that Alqudsi referred to himself as “the commander” of the group while complaining that members did not respect him.
After passports were seized by police after an attempt to travel to Syria through Turkey, according to the prosecution, the group allegedly began to use soccer matches as a form of code to discuss their various plans. They would often ask if there was a “soccer match”, eluding to their plans to travel to Syria.
“The accused said to one of the boys: ‘You’re an A-League player, you’ll be an asset for the team,” McDonald told the jury.
A further attempt by Alqudsi to leave Australia was halted by Australian Border Force officers after he attempted to go to Singapore. After returning home, he allegedly sent a text that said: “God’s enemies denied me and seized my passport.”
Alqudsi was found guilty of violating Australia’s foreign incursion laws in 2016 after making the travel arrangements in 2013, saying to the NSW Supreme Court: “As an Australian, I should have minded my own business.”
Alqudsi has pleaded not guilty. The trial continues.