Long jail terms for men who plotted Christmas attacks in Melbourne

Would-be attackers were inspired by ISIS in planning mass attack with knives and explosives

In this composite image of Hamza Abbas, left, Ahmed Mohamed and Abdullah Chaarani, right, arrive at the Supreme Court of Victoria, in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. Mohamed, Chaarani and Abbas were given lengthy prison sentences over preparing a mass attack around Christmas 2016 involving explosives and knives at Federation Square, a popular downtown restaurant and entertainment precinct in Melbourne. (James Ross/AAP Image via AP)

Three men inspired by ISIS were sentenced to jail terms of more than 20 years on Friday for plotting a Christmas-time attack in Australia’s second-largest city.

Ahmed Mohamed, Abdullah Chaarani and Hamza Abbas were convicted of preparing a mass attack around Christmas 2016 involving explosives and knives at Federation Square, a popular downtown restaurant and entertainment precinct in Melbourne.

Chaarani, 29, and Mohamed, 27, must serve at least 28 years and six months in prison. Abbas, 24, who was involved in the conspiracy for a shorter time, was jailed for 22 years with a non-parole period of 16 years and six months.

At the Supreme Court of Victoria, Justice Christopher Beale said the three men had embraced ISIS ideology.

“Each of you, to a greater or lesser degree, accessed materials on the internet supportive of Islamic State and violent jihad,” he said. “Their views became so warped they had come to believe the mass slaughter of innocent civilians would be a glorious act, pleasing to Allah.”

“The stupidity of that belief was only matched by its malevolence,” he said.

Ibrahim Abbas, the self-confessed ringleader of the plot, was sentenced last year to 24 years in prison. He had been a prosecution witness against his brother Hamza Abbas and co-conspirators Mohamed and Chaarani.

During a plea hearing before Mr Beale last month, Mohamed and Chaarani claimed they had renounced ISIS and had worked toward deradicalisation since being arrested on December 22, 2016.

Mr Beale accepted the three men were on the path to rehabilitation.

It was the second terrorism conviction for Mohamed and Chaarani, who were already serving 22-year prison terms for firebombing a Shiite mosque in Melbourne just weeks before the planned Christmas attack.

Police uncovered the plot after monitoring the Australian-born men's phone conversations, text messages and emails, and all four were arrested on December 22, 2016.

Then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull called their plans "one of the most substantial terrorist plots that have been disrupted over the last several years".

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