Mr Hamdi Alqudsi was today sentenced to eight years imprisonment with a non-parole period of six years for assisting seven men in their efforts to travel to Syria to in order to join the armed conflict taking place there.
Mr Alqudsi, who is 42 years of age and from St Helens Park in Sydney, is the first person to be charged with performing services for Australian citizens and residents intending to travel to Syria to fight with an armed group engaged in the conflict taking place there.
Mr Alqudsi was convicted by a NSW Supreme Court jury at a trial prosecuted by the Commonwealth DPP. The jury found that, between 25 June 2013 and November 2013, Mr Alqudsi assisted 7 men make arrangements to travel from Australia to Syria, via Turkey, with the intention of joining a group engaged in armed hostilities against the Syrian Government led by Syrian President Bashar AL-ASSAD.
Mr Alqudsi was arrested in December 2013 following an investigation by officers of the NSW Joint Counter-Terrorism Team (JCTT). The JCTT collected extensive evidence, which included intercepted telephone calls as well as physical and electronic surveillance evidence. The intercepted telephone calls revealed the extent of Mr Alqudsi’s role as he made arrangements for some of the men to meet up with Mohammad Ali BARYALEI (aka Abu Omar), an Australian then working with one of the armed groups fighting in the Syrian conflict.
Mr Alqudsi performed these services intending that the men would join an armed group and would fight on the front line in the Syrian conflict. Mr Alqudsi advised and instructed the men about travel routes, hotel accommodation, appropriate currencies and how to solve problems with local security services. Mr Alqudsi provided a vital contact point for the men in Syria. He was also a very important source of support and encouragement.
This sentencing of Mr Alqudsi today brings to a close what were complex legal proceedings. In the course of this prosecution Mr Alqudsi sought a declaration that the offence provision under which he had been charged were was invalid on the ground that it exceeded the external affairs power in s.51(xxix) of the Constitution. In addition, Mr Alqudsi brought proceedings in the High Court of Australia seeking an order that he be permitted to stand trial before a judge alone, without a jury. Both applications failed.
Announcing the outcome Deputy Director of the CDPP’s Organised and Counter-Terrorism Practice Group, Scott Bruckard, said, “This is the first prosecution of a person charged with assisting Australian citizens and residents to travel and fight with an armed group in the Syrian conflict.
“It highlights the ongoing and sustained investigative work of police and partner agencies to keep the community safe and prevent Australian citizens and residents from engaging in hostile activities in foreign countries. Whilst this prosecution was complex and whilst Mr Alqudsi instituted a number of legal challenges to the offences in question, the validity of these law was upheld by the Courts and an important precedent was set for future foreign incursion and recruitment cases.
“The sentence imposed in this case today sends a strong and clear message of deterrence. If you plan to travel overseas to engage in armed conflicts or if you support and encourage others to do so, you may be prosecuted for these crimes and, if convicted, you will face a lengthy period of imprisonment.”
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Hamdi Alqudsi was charged with:
- Seven charges against section 7(1)(e) of the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act 1978, namely that:
ALQUDSI did perform services for another person with the intention of supporting or promoting the commission of an offence against section 6 of the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act 1978, being the entry by that person into a foreign State, namely Syria, with intent to engage in a hostile activity in Syria, in particular, engaging in armed hostilities in Syria.
- The charges also rely upon section 6(1)(a) and section 6(3)(aa) of the Act.
The sentence imposed for each count was:
- 4 years imprisonment commencing on 12 July 2016 and expiring on 11 July 2020.
- 4 years imprisonment commencing on 12 November 2016 and expiring on 11 November 2020.
- 4 years imprisonment commencing on 12 March 2017 and expiring on 11 March 2021.
- 4 years and 6 months imprisonment commencing on 12 July 2017 and expiring on 11 January 2022.
- 4 years imprisonment commencing on 12 July 2018 and expiring on 11 July 2022.
- 4 years imprisonment commencing on 12 July 2019 and expiring on 11 July 2023.
- 4 years imprisonment commencing on 12 July 2020 and expiring on 11 July 2024.
About the CDPP
The Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) is an independent prosecution service established by Parliament to prosecute alleged offences against Commonwealth law that are referred by agencies including the federal and state police authorities. The CDPP aims to provide an effective, ethical, high quality and independent criminal prosecution service for Australia in accordance with the Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth.