In New South Wales, Australia, forty-eight-year-old defendant Hamdi Al-Qudsi appeared before the Supreme Court for his trial on July 18th. Al-Qudsi pleaded “not guilty” to charges that he intentionally directed a terrorist organization as he prepared toexecute attacks.
The Supreme Court’s Crown prosecutor, Patricia McDonald, advised the court that Al-Qudsi allegedly created the Shura and acted as their leader from August through December 2014. The Arabic language defines Shura to mean “consultation council.”
McDonald attested that the Shura’s intentions from the beginning was to send combatants from Australia over to Syria to fight the coalition forces or government.
Accused terror group boss goes on trial https://t.co/silC8guKjh
— Dr Levi West (@levijwest) July 18, 2022
She explained to the jury that once the Australian Federal Police and NSW Police took action and interfered with Shura’s plot, the group realigned as domestic terrorists.
Once the group became frustrated over losing their original focus, they began making gradual changes. The prosecutor said of Shura’s transformation, “What occurred over time was refocusing and focusing on performing, fostering domestic terrorist acts.”
The Shura group’s recruits were expected to “pledge allegiance” to the Islamic State, as reported by the prosecutor. She also stated that Al-Qudsi referred to himself as the “commander” of the Shura, even though he expressed his concerns that the group members had no respect for him.
The Shura and Al-Qudsi allegedly plotted attacks at several locations, including the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and the city’s tourist locations. They allegedly veered toward plotting domestic terror attacks on the Navy base at Woolloomooloo wharf in Sydney, the Parramatta courthouse, and the Israeli consulate.
“The Crown’s case is that initial activities of the Shura were disrupted by police through cancellations of passports, the exercise of arrests and search warrants,” according to the prosecutor. Some group members arrived at the airport only to see their passports canceled.
On Wednesday, the jury listened to some of the phone taps and service data that the prosecution presented. Al-Qudsi’s frustrations about how some of his group’s travel plans to Syria were foiled by police were exposed in the phone taps and played in court for the jury. The jury listened to more than 40 phone taps between Al-Qudsi and members of his Shura group and contacts in Syria.
When they attempted to cross into Syria through Turkey, the police confiscated their passports. After that, Al-Qudsi and his group allegedly used terms for soccer matches to communicate plans with each other, as noted by prosecutors. Al-Qudsi often asked if there was a “soccer match” instead of referring to travels to visit Syria.
Speaking to the jury, the prosecutor explained the covert communication to them, “The accused said to one of the boys: ‘You’re an A-League player, you’ll be an asset to the team.’”
The Supreme Court heard how Al-Qudsi and his Shura group would use codes structured as “A-League soccer matches” whenever conversing about plans for Syria. Al-Qudsi said in one of his phone calls, “The soccer game is a real club.”
“You’re an A-League player, soccer needs you, there’s a spot for you, but I need to know your intentions.” Then he asked, “You taking the spot?”
Another tapped phone call reveals Al-Qudsi told one of the Shura members that “the soccer game” will happen soon. This covert language meant he was ready to send them to Syria.
Jurors were informed they would be presented with evidence about the inside workings of the Shura group, including authentic accounts of some of its members' alleged initiations.
McDonald also advised the jury that correspondence will be exposed that “sets out some of the proposed details about this attack on the naval base.”
Al-Qudsi made another attempt to leave Australia, but police officers with the Australian Border stopped him as he attempted to leave for Singapore. When he returned to his home, Al-Qudsi is reported to have sent a text saying, “The enemies of God denied me and took away my passport.”
In 2016, the court found Al-Qudsi guilty of breaking foreign interference laws in Australia after he made travel arrangements in 2013.
But on Monday, July 18th, Al-Qudsi was charged with intentionally creating a terrorist organization to carry out attacks.
Al-Qudsi has not confessed to the charges. The trial is still in progress.