SYDNEY – An Australian court Monday sentenced five Muslim extremists to prison terms of 23 to 28 years after convicting them of preparing for terror attacks on unspecified targets by stockpiling explosive chemicals and firearms.
Justice Anthony Whealy of the New South Wales Supreme Court said he had little hope that the men, aged 25 to 44, could be rehabilitated, saying they were motivated by "intolerant, inflexible religious conviction" and had shown contempt for the Australian government, its leaders and laws.
The men were found guilty last October on charges linked to preparing for a terrorist act between July 2004 and November 2005. The men — Australian-born or naturalized citizens with Muslim immigrant backgrounds — had all pleaded not guilty to the charges.
They had stockpiled explosive chemicals and firearms, though it was not established where they would target.
During the trial, a former associate of the suspects testified that the group had considered bombing an Australian Rules football final in Melbourne in 2005 that was attended by almost 92,000 people. Prosecutors said they had also discussed killing former Prime Minister John Howard.
Whealy has restricted the media from publishing the men's names. One of the men participated in a terrorist-run paramilitary training camp in Pakistan, and three others attended similar camps in New South Wales to prepare for an attack.
"One particular feature of this trial was the fact that a considerable volume of extremist material was held by each offender in common with the other conspirators," Whealy said, noting that was "powerful evidence" that they jointly held extremist views.
The men had faced a maximum penalty of life in prison. The judge allowed for parole after the men serve from 17 to 21 years in prison.