Hamdi Alqudsi convicted and sentenced for directing activities of a terrorist organisation
NSW man Hamdi Alqudsi directed the activities of a terrorist organisation in Australia that planned terrorist acts and supported hostilities overseas. Prosecutors worked on the matter for four years, resulting in a successful outcome for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, with Mr Alqudsi being sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment in April 2023.
Mr Alqudsi had been previously convicted of related conduct. Between June and October 2013, Mr Alqudsi assisted seven people to travel Syria to participate in the conflict there. In 2015, Mr Alqudsi was charged with seven counts under the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act 1978 (Cth). In July 2016, he was convicted and subsequently sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of six years.
In 2019, while serving his term of imprisonment, Mr Alqudsi was charged by the NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team (JCTT) with knowingly directing the activities of a terrorist organisation contrary to s102.2(1) of the Criminal Code. Mr Alqudsi led a terrorist organisation called ‘the Shura.’ Members of the group discussed terror attacks around Sydney including beheadings, improvised explosives at the Sydney Mardi Gras, an attack on the Garden Island Naval Base in Sydney Harbour and an attack on Australian Federal Police at the NSW Supreme Court.
Mr Alqudsi pleaded not guilty to the charge and a trial commenced in July 2022. During the trial, the CDPP successfully demonstrated to the jury that Mr Alqudsi led the terrorist organisation and knew it was a terrorist organisation. The maximum sentence for this crime is 25 years’ imprisonment.
The Shura’s focus was initially to assist fighters in Australia to reach Syria (resulting in Mr Alqudsi’s initial conviction). The CDPP’s case at trial was that a wave of passport cancellations in 2013-14 prevented the group from carrying out this objective, resulting in a shift in the group’s priorities. As it was no longer possible to arrange for fighters to travel to Syria, the CDPP alleged that the group changed its focus to carrying out domestic terror attacks.
Evidence put forward by the CDPP included discussions between members of the group which raised the possibility of carrying out attacks in Australia, including at the Garden Island Naval Base, and at the Supreme Court of NSW on one of Mr Alqudsi’s court dates. A key allegation made by the CDPP was that the Shura and Mr Alqudsi also pledged allegiance to the then-‘Caliph’ of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in 2014, during a meeting at Wattamolla Beach.
In September 2022, the jury found Mr Alqudsi guilty. In assessing the objective seriousness of the offence for the purposes of sentencing Mr Alqudsi, Justice Rothman considered a range of factors including that the terror plans had not been enacted.
“I accept that, at the time of his arrest and charging, the terrorist act had not been finalised. No target had been finalised and the planning was incomplete. Rather, the arrest of Mr Alqudsi and the other members of the Shura occurred at a time when the planning was in its early stages. However, such an occurrence says more about law-enforcement agencies and their capacity than it does about the offender.”
Mr Alqudsi was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of 11 years and three months.
This matter was Australia’s second conviction under Division 102 of the Criminal Code. In 2008 the CDPP prosecuted Abdul Nacer Benbrika who was found guilty and in 2009 sentenced for his leadership of a terrorist group. Mr Benbrika was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of 12 years.
Canberra Times Terrorist commander jailed for 15 years