Terrorist leader goes on trial in Sydney

Hamdi Alqudsi, who is accused of leading a "terrorist group" called the Shura, has gone on trial in Sydney, Australia.

Alqudsi is accused of leading a "terrorist group" called the Shura, which allegedly planned to attack Sydney's naval base, a courthouse, the Mardi Gras parade and the Israeli embassy. He is also accused of gathering men who pledged allegiance to ISIS.

At the New South Wales Supreme Court, Alqudsi is facing charges of intentionally directing a terrorist organisation which was preparing to carry out a terrorist act. It is alleged he directed the organisation between August 2014 and December 2014. Alqudsi has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Alqudsi first came to the police's attention in 2013, after allegedly rallying men to form a group called the Shura, which means "consultation council" in Arabic.

The prosecution said he recruited people to travel to Syria to “fight against the commonwealth”, and to collect money for men to travel. The Shura is then believed to have changed focus and become involved in fostering domestic terrorism attacks.

Crown prosecutor Trish McDonald SC said: “The crown case is that the initial activities of the Shura were disrupted by police, through cancellations of passports, exercise of arrests and search warrants.”

Ms McDonald said that during the trial, the jury will see evidence about about the inner workings of the Shura from some of “the brothers” who was allegedly recruited.

Jury members have heard how the Shura allegedly gave a pledge of allegiance to IS and were frustrated when their plans to go to Syria were thwarted by police.

It is alleged Mr Alqudsi referred to himself as "the commander" of the Shura and told members of the group that they should purchase return tickets to Syria in an attempt to not get caught, and should fly through Singapore to Turkey.

The court has heard members of the group would refer to football, when discussing plans to travel to Syria. Ms McDonald told the jury: “The accused said to one of the boys, ‘You’re an A-League player, you’ll be an asset for the team.’”

The court heard Alqudsi planned to travel to Singapore, but he was intercepted at the airport by Australian Border Force officers, who said his passport was cancelled. On his return home, he sent a text which said: “God’s enemies denied me and seized my passport”.

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