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Tuesday, 19 November, 2002, 08:56 GMT
Australian denies anti-Israeli plot
Artist's impression of the courtroom
Roche went to Afghanistan to learn bomb-making
Australian police have charged a British-born man with planning to blow up Israeli diplomatic premises in Australia.

Jack Roche
Roche: defended Osama Bin Laden as "innocent until proven guilty"
Jack Roche, 49, appeared in court in Perth on Tuesday to deny any connection with the alleged plot.

The man's arrest on Monday night follows an earlier raid on his home - one of a series by Australian police in the wake of the 12 October bombings in the Indonesian resort of Bali, in which nearly 200 people died.

A police spokesman said the arrest was not connected with the attack in Indonesia.

In interviews after the raids, Mr Roche said that after converting to Islam 10 years ago, he had been sent to Afghanistan to learn to make bombs.

He also said he was a supporter of Indonesian Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir - the alleged spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah, a militant group that has been linked to the Bali bombing.

Mr Roche also defended Osama Bin Laden who was "innocent until proven guilty".

Meanwhile, the Australian Government has warned its citizens to be vigilant in the face of what it calls credible information of possible terrorist attacks.

Justice Minister Chris Ellison said the information was of a general nature, not relating to any specific targets or times.

Many Western governments have recently issued similar warnings.

'Conspiracy'

During Mr Roche's brief court appearance his lawyer, Robert Mazza, denied his client was guilty of two charges of conspiring to bomb the Israeli embassy in Canberra and the Israeli consulate in Sydney.

Abu Bakar Ba'asyir
Roche is a supporter of Ba'asyir

The attacks were alleged to have planned two years ago in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Malaysia.

The suspect was not required to enter a plea on Tuesday - Mr Mazza said he would plead not guilty to the charges.

"He disavows violence," the lawyer said.

The court remanded Mr Roche in custody until 27 November when he is to make an application for bail.

Support for cleric

Mr Roche was born in the UK and converted to Islam.

He was one of a number of people whose homes were raided by police in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney earlier this month, targeting sympathisers of Jemaah Islamiah.


He [Jack Roche] disavows violence

Robert Mazza, defence lawyer
During the police crackdown Mr Roche told Australian ABC radio that he was a supporter of radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, accused by several governments of leading Jemaah Islamiah.

Mr Roche said he met Mr Ba'asyir in the mid-1990s when the cleric visited Australia.

"I liked what he was saying. It was very clear. It all made sense," he told the radio.

Mr Roche said Mr Ba'asyir's talks only covered religious topics and he denied having any links with terrorist organisations.

"I believe that Abu Bakar Ba'asyir is supporting Osama Bin Laden on the basis of what he sees as Osama Bin Laden having the courage of his convictions and sincerely believes what he is doing is right," the ABC quoted him as saying.

"I mean as far as I know Osama Bin Laden is innocent until proved guilty."

Mr Roche's defence lawyer, however, says he has no information on whether his client trained with any terrorist organisations.

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The BBC's Phil Mercer
"(The arrest) follows a series of raids by the Australian secret service"

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See also:

30 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
28 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
18 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
03 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
27 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
31 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
07 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
24 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
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