A terror attack on a Melbourne mosque was motivated by intolerance, malevolence and misguided piety based on beliefs a Supreme Court Justice says have no place in civilized society.
Ahmed Mohamed was the mastermind of a plan to burn down the Imam Ali Islamic Centre, where Shia Muslims attend, in Fawkner in 2016 and recruited his friend Abdullah Chaarani to help.
When their first attempt in November that year failed, the Sunni Muslim men went back to the drawing board and recruited Hatim Moukhaiber for a second go in December.
Their goal was to “strike a blow against, and terrorize, Shia Muslims”, Justice Andrew Tinney said on Wednesday as he jailed the terror trio for their “callous, cowardly and vindictive” crimes.
Mohamed, 26, and Chaarani, 28, have been jailed for 22 years for carrying out the act of terror and for their earlier attempt.
The pair, who are still awaiting sentencing after being convicted of a separate plot to carry out an attack on Federation Square weeks later on Christmas Day in 2016, must serve at least 17 years before they’re eligible for parole.
Moukhaiber, 31, must serve at least 12 years of a 16-year prison term before he’s eligible for release on parole.
Justice Tinney said the men had sought to advance the cause of the Islamic State, pointing to graffiti sprayed on the Shia mosque on the day it was burned.
“The State of Islam,” Justice Tinney said the Arab script translated to, noting that they’d made an error in an effort to write “The Islamic State”.
While the fire set by Mohamed and Chaarani in their first attempted firebombing failed, the second was a success and resulted in the mosque needing demolition.
“The three of you, as a team of terrorists, had learned some lessons from Mohamed and Chaarani’s failed attempt, and weren’t going to make the same mistakes again,” the judge said.
The damage bill for the mosque was more than $1.5 million but only $840,00 was recouped from insurance.
After the attacks the group sent messages between them, showing “obvious satisfaction and amusement” at their actions, Justice Tinney noted.
The three men laughed and chatted among themselves as the judge took more than two hours to deliver his sentencing remarks.
Moukhaiber whooped and danced after being led from the courtroom by security.
The men smiled and waved at a number of supporters.
Justice Tinney said Mohamed and Chaarani had written letters to him expressing their remorse for their actions, renouncing Islamic State and everything the organisation stands for.
He said Chaarani wrote that he could now see his crimes were “heinous and rotten” and that he understood the suffering he caused.
Mohamed spoke of having “nothing but remorse and regret” and that he’d come to mix with different people in prison.
He had a letter of support from a Shia Muslim he got to know behind bars.
Justice Tinney described the letters as “unconvincing and self-serving” but acknowledged “some good” may flow from them.
Moukhaiber denies being radicalized and the judge rejected his prospects of rehabilitation while he still holds extreme views.