Page last updated at 07:14 GMT, Friday, 16 October 2009 08:14 UK

Sydney terror suspects convicted


Archive footage of the police operation in November 2005

Five men have been found guilty in Sydney, Australia, of conspiring to commit terrorist attacks.

A jury deliberated for 23 days before convicting them unanimously on charges including possessing bomb-making instructions and explosives chemicals.

The maximum sentence for the offences is life in prison.

Prosecutors said the men were arrested in raids on their homes in 2005 and planned to commit violence to alter Australia's policy on the Middle East.

There were angry scenes outside the specially designed court in Parramatta as supporters of the convicted men scuffled with members of the press.

A brother of one of the men, who was protesting outside the court, told AFP he did not think imprisoning the group would stop terror attacks.

"I think it will increase the threat on Australia," he said.

Paramilitary camp

The trial began in November 2008 and lasted more than 170 days.

Prosecutor Richard Maidment told the jury the defendants, aged between 25 and 44, were planning to commit "extreme violence" to try to change Australian foreign policy.

Nick Bryant
Nick Bryant, BBC News, Sydney
This trial lasted10 months, the longest trial in Australian history. The jury heard 30 days of surveillance tapes, there were 300 witnesses called.

But at no stage were the jury told precisely what the target or the nature of the plot were. There was no direct evidence linking these men to a precise plot.

The defence argued it is very difficult to convict these men of terrorist conspiracy when the prosecution could not outline precisely what that conspiracy was.

Mr Maidment had said: "They were motivated to pursue what they probably saw as a religious cause, that is that of jihad."

The specific targets of attack were not revealed and the names of the men cannot be given for legal reasons.

They showed little emotion on hearing the verdict and were remanded in custody to reappear on 14 December.

The raids on the homes yielded terror-related material, prosecutors said.

The BBC's Nick Bryant in Sydney says the arrests four years ago followed tip offs from hardware store and gun shop owners.

Their suspicions had been raised when the men started to order unusually high amounts of chemicals and guns.

Prosecutors said one defendant had attended a training camp in Pakistan of the Lashkar-e-Taiba group and had set up a paramilitary style camp in rural New South Wales to train three of the other men.

Justice Anthony Whealy praised the jury for their diligence and integrity.

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