Page last updated at 08:58 GMT, Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Australia cleric gets jail term

Abdul Nacer Benbrika, file, ABC Australia
Benbrika must serve at least 12 years

A Muslim cleric has been given a 15-year jail sentence in Australia for plotting to attack sporting events.

Abdul Nacer Benbrika and six others were found guilty in September of planning the attacks, which were never carried out.

Then-Prime Minister John Howard was also among the targets for "violent jihad", a court in Melbourne heard.

Judge Bernard Bongiorno ruled that Benbrika would not be eligible for parole for at least 12 years.

Prosecutors said that Benbrika and his men had discussed attacking two iconic sporting events; the Australian Rules Football grand final and Melbourne's Formula One Grand Prix.

They told the court that the aim of the plot was to force the Australian government to pull its troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Prosecutors insisted that the Algerian-born cleric had said it was permissible to kill women, children and the elderly.

"The organisation fostered and encouraged its members to engage in violent jihad and to perform a terrorist act," Judge Bongiorno told Victoria's Supreme Court.

The trial of Algerian-born Benbrika and his followers lasted more than six months.

His six accomplices received minimum jail terms of between four and seven-and-a-half years.

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