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The Benbrika Verdicts

Mark Sergeant is a long-time Webdiary contributor (wrote the 50,000th comment, he did) with a sharp eye for legal anomalies. This is his third piece for Webdiary:

The Benbrika Verdicts
by Mark Sergeant

Readers are probably aware by now that the jury in the Benbrika case has delivered a variety of verdicts (with a couple more as follow up). The net result is, of the original 13 charged, seven have been found guilty on one or more charges, four not guilty on any charge, one where the jury could not reach a verdict, and one turned "state's evidence", pled guilty, and is already serving a five and a half year sentence.

It's difficult commenting on jury verdicts. Normally, all we have are second-hand reports from the media, which are necessarily incomplete, often from partisan sources and sometimes misleading. We do not know, apart from the verdict, what the jury thought, or how they reached their conclusions. We take it on trust that the jury has been conscientious. A written judgment is a decent source document, and there is at least an illusion that we have access to the relevant material.

So the jury deliberated, over 21 days, working its way through the evidence, and in the end arriving at a set of verdicts that are, probably, about right. Benbrika, the mastermind, convicted on all charges. Some convicted, some not. Some convicted on some charges and not on others. One they couldn't decide on. It is what you would expect if Benbrika was creating a terrorist organisation - a small group of people with a range of degrees of involvement. But it reminds me of the Hicks saga, and the Ahmed Ali liquibomber case. Part of the Hicks bargain was that he was found not guilty on the greater charge of providing support for an act of terrorism. The liquibombers were found not guilty of plotting to bring down a trans-Atlantic airliner. Certainly in the Hicks case, and quite probably in the Ahmed Ali and Benbrika cases, the prosecution were pursuing charges where they had little or no substantial evidence to lend weight to the more nebulous (and lesser) charges where they did have significant evidence. Understandable, perhaps, but should our representatives be prosecuting charges they know will fail as a tactic to secure conviction on lesser charges?

Considering our safety as citizens, there may be something more important than these verdicts that happened along the way. It's R v Benbrika & Ors (Ruling no 20), and it found that it was unreasonable for the accused to be transported from Geelong to Melbourne each trial day, shackled, in the orange jump suits and with strip searches at each end. They were, remember, not convicted of anything at the time. Some of them have just, six months later, been acquitted on all charges.

And, of course, we have the pollies tough on terrorism. As always

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That is tiresome too, Marilyn

Don't be tiresome Marilyn. It is not my definition of a crime that puts people away. If a person is charged with an alleged offence then there has to be a law that has been allegedly breached for a charge to be laid in the first place. These guys were charged my dear and they were not planning a raid on a chocolate factory. Get real.

If all those men did was talk and yet they were convicted of an offence under the anti terrorism laws, then there is all the evidence you need to undermine your own argument. You are clearly not a lawyer whereas the prosecutor of these men would be. I would defer to him or her over anyone here on definitions of what constitutes an offence under any law - though I might listen to Malcolm B Duncan. He does seem to know a bit about the law and is the only one here who does it seems.

I assume you believe that the planning of an act of terrorism is a crime. But one could be forgiven for believing that you do not, plus a few others around here as well. Oh well, as you say, tiresome. Some people you would not convince if a bomb went off next to them.

Dodgy logic

No-one said our system wasn't the best, Ian MacDougall, but it's only as strong as those who implement it.

As the little old man who gave me my first job at 16 (and owned huge swathes of city real estate) told me in his pep talk on the first day: "There will always be corruption in any organisation but it can be nipped in the bud at some stage. When it comes from the top it filters down until the whole thing is rotten".

We've gone part way – booting out a power mad PM who began to believe his own myths but the whole organisation needs a clean-out. That includes our security organisations and the AFP. They gave us the lies used to go into an illegal war (or so Howard says) or the lies used against Haneef. Politicians daily promoted myths about "illegals jumping queues" to justify incarcerating children for years or removing Aussie citizens with total disregard to their rights.

As for "If you don't like it, campaign to have that law changed. See how you go." – what the hell do you think most of us whingers do much of our lives? It's a constant struggle to get fairness. It involves honest and dedicated lawyers and barristers like Julian Burnside and ordinary people continually campaigning in every manner possible. Just because we don't always win doesn't mean we aren't correct or that it will happen within our lifetime.

How many times must I say it: go and read They Thought They Were Free by Milton Meyer. The parallels between the lead-up to WW2 and the past few years in the US, UK and Australia which follows the other two religiously are frightening.

Loitering with intent (3)

(1)  Mrs Brown, my cleaner, was repeatedly threatened by her long-time estranged husband.

Legal and police advice:  Nothing could be done because he had done nothing.   

Outcome:  he shot and killed her.

(2) X, a farmworker, seemed increasingly mentally ill, and spoke of his wife and children as dangerous puppets and in other bizarre and threatening terms.

Legal and police advice:  Nothing could be done because he had done nothing.  

Outcome:   he shot and killed them all.

Maybe loitering was the issue in Ian MacDougall's  example.  All involved in the above two incidents were repeatedly told that no action could be taken on  a clearly stated and repeated intent.

Which just goes to show surely

Which just goes to prove the point, does it not F Kendall, that when people make threats they should be taken seriously, and acted on, and indeed are in many cases. Those are just two of many cases where intent is stated and action should have, and could have been, but was not, taken.

Your case (2). A clear failure on the part of the police to take action that was within their power, and wrong legal advice. I know from experience the police don't like to act when a person who is clearly mentally ill simply makes statements that suggest that they or others are at risk. I found the solution to that. When I encountered that situation I demanded that a note be put on the file to say I had warned them. Now they did not want to do that, so I said I would send a letter setting all that out. They went, if only to cover their hides, and moved the person to hospital with the help of mental health crisis team. He was placed on a treatment order and is still on it two years later. I was right, they were wrong but they could, and did, act on what was only verbal threats by the person. Thankfully.

Same with your case (1). I know where a threat was made by a person known to me, to kill someone. He made the mistake of making it to an undercover cop. He was charged and he got five years in Long Bay. He was caught with various items in the boot of his car which suggested he was going to loiter with intent to commit murder. When all put together it was clear that he meant what he said. Just words and some stuff in his car boot. He had not done anything - just basically gabbed and had a few things in his car, for which he had an explanation. Gaoled.

You see, the police do not always do their job. Can't do anything because the person has done nothing is total nonsense. They can if they want to though I agree restaining orders do not achieve much where the intent becomes determination to do harm.

How many women have reported threats and been harmed because the police adopted what people here seem to be advocating, that is, that people should not, and in fact cannot, be arrested simply on the basis of what they say they are going to do? Well, I think that is nonsense..

As usual, I am not sure where you stand on this issue, because in your inimitable style that is obscured. With respect, my dear - of course.

BTW: No snails.

Ian, they didn't make any decision

Based only on the words of a nutcase it has been deemed that a few men had made a decision to blow up the MCG. This was discredited months ago but the jury still used it to convict those men.

Ergo the jury and the law are all asses.

Loitering with intent (2)

Marilyn: "Based only on the words of a nutcase it has been deemed that a few men had made a decision to blow up the MCG."

That's an easy one for appeal. Sole witness unfit to give evidence. If it can be established that he was a 'nutcase'.

Michael: (1) "Our system of law is flawed... That's why we have appeals courts. Juries don't always get it right, judges give the wrong directions, police and authorities tell lies (see Dr Haneef)."

(2) "Perhaps it's more some people in the system of law are flawed Ian MacDougall (please – no 'sharia' law etc comparisons – don't do an Eliot on me!)."

(3) "I don't think Dr Haneef is a very good example to use of how an innocent man will eventually walk free. It was sheer luck that his innocence was discovered despite a conspiracy to ruin his reputation."

Items (1), (2) and (3) came from you. There is a bit of a contradiction going on between (3) and (1). Note that it was you who brought up Haneef, and in what context. Then having said (1), you come up with (2). To be safe, I suggest you take the position I do: The legal system, despite hundreds of years of effort at liberal reform going back at least to Magna Carta, is still flawed, and people are fallible. And the law itself, as distinct from the system for creating and administering it, is sometimes, but not always, an ass. (Sorry Dr Jonson, but sweeping generalisations are themselves more ass-like than owl-like.)

So we have presumption of innocence and conviction only when guilt is established beyond reasonable doubt in the eyes of a group randomly selected from the population at large.

As for (2), you appear to want it both ways: the Australian system is terrible, but no comparisons are allowed. Give us an example of a worse system? Too easy. Give us an example of a better system? Too hard. A second reason for making the sharia comparison is that it is the system that many Muslim immigrants are only too happy to be out of, but that which Muslim terrorists invariably want to be inside of, and to set up in place of whatever else happens to be going in their nominally adopted countries.

Richard: "With respect, after our involvement in the incarceration of Parkin, Haneef and Hicks, that a man of your apparent intelligence can have faith in the Australian legal system with regards to this current case is something that, to me, is amazing."

Be that as it may, Richard. Life is full of surprises, and you don't know what you've got till it’s gone. But let me refer you to Mark Sergeant's thread starter: "So the jury deliberated, over 21 days, working its way through the evidence, and in the end arriving at a set of verdicts that are, probably, about right. Benbrika, the mastermind, convicted on all charges. Some convicted, some not. Some convicted on some charges and not on others. One they couldn't decide on. It is what you would expect if Benbrika was creating a terrorist organisation – a small group of people with a range of degrees of involvement..."

Paul Walter: "As for convicting people for 'making a decision', surely we still in a civilised society don't drag people before a court unless a 'decision' has been acted upon."

Yes and no. That's why I mentioned 'loitering with intent'. If the cops catch me hanging around in a back lane with a bag of typical burglar tools, they can have me for it. I don't have to actually go so far as to bust into a building. If I have no reasonable explanation for the bag of tools, I'm gone. If you like, what I have acted on is a decision to go out and commit a robbery. That much have I done.

If you don't like it, campaign to have that law changed. See how you go.

Shakes his head sadly

I and others seem to be having trouble trying to explain what we feel to be relatively straightforward stuff in our fight against totalitarianism, to certain others.

Ian, F, Jenny etc, try Crikey and the current Bernard Keane article, Terrorism and politics in Australia: an absurd farce.

Let's wait and see if Keane can succeed where some reasonably bright people here have apparently, if mystifyingly, failed.

Mmmm!

Perhaps it's more some people in the system of law are flawed Ian MacDougall (please – no "sharia" law etc comparisons – don't do an Eliot on me!).

I don't think Dr Haneef is a very good example to use of how an innocent man will eventually walk free. It was sheer luck that his innocence was discovered despite a conspiracy to ruin his reputation. Had Howard been returned, would Kevin Andrews have stuck to his immigration stance? I think so.

Kevin Rudd also said at the time Haneef's case had been handled correctly but that was after he was supplied information by the AFP's Keelty. We know how much we can rely on that.

Kathy Farrelly, is Christine Nixon the best example to quote (and I'm an admirer of her)? After all, she practically condemned a wayward 16 year old with similar damning words after a party of teenagers that got of control.

Our current AG Robert McClelland still worries me and seems to be relying on everything he is fed by the ASIO, the AFP etc. Claiming this was "the most important terrorism trial in the country to date" is rubbish. The Eureka Stockade was far more serious and had far more far-reaching effects.

Did somebody mention "Eureka Stockade"?

Anybody dares to look at the flag above our names in the pub window and call us BLF had best be prepared for the litany. Bloody colonial Irish and Italians, what would they know?

Thank you for the reminder, Michael!

Chokes on weeties

BTW, it will be interesting to see what current sentences for "loitering with intent are".

As for convicting people for "making a decision", surely we still in a civilised society don't drag people before a court unless a "decison" has been acted upon.

If the authorities were so confident that this was an actual decision, all they would have had to do was wait until that decision had been acted upon, to confirm that it was indeed, a "decision".

Otherwise the law has descended to merely operating from mere presumption.

The Haneef laws are meaningless fascist garbage.

He was guilty of talking

We don't convict people of talking, which is all they did.

Talk.

Flawed?...yes

Our system of law is flawed, Jenny Hume. That's why we have appeals courts. Juries don't always get it right, judges give the wrong directions, police and authorities tell lies (see Dr Haneef).

What happens here is not too different than the UK and there is a virtual epidemic there of successful appeals in recent years.

Clearly this trial was flawed as 3 men who had been incarcerated for 3 years were found innocent. Why were they on trial and why the childish dramatics (but so harmful to these innocent men) of orange jumpsuits and shackled feet?

Nope...

Jenny and Ian. These guys are under close surveillance, right. Surely the authorities can continue the watch beyond the verbal nonsense, until something concrete is hatched and there is actual material evidence available. There is a world of difference between bullfarting with your drongo mates and moving to the next step, as to this sort of thing.

You surely can't jail people just for ventilating (hot air), so no, am not happy with the thing at all, contrary to your suggestion, Ian.

It's not good enough to jail people for long periods (as is apparently possible in this case), just for blowharding.

Once again, btw, I draw people's attention to the fact that these folk have not yet been sentenced.

If they are sentenced for merely jawing off; are they receiving a sentence not even a rape or violent assault receives?

Loitering with intent and so on...

Paul: "It's not good enough to jail people for long periods (as is apparently possible in this case), just for blowharding."

As I see it (and I confess I have not followed the details of the case closely), these men have been found guilty of a crime by an Australian court. They have not yet been sentenced.

They were defended by a high-powered legal team, who will probably take it on appeal if they can to an appellate court. As far as I can see, the men were convicted for a decision they made, not for mere gasbagging, canvassing of options etc.. If I am wrong there, I would say they probably have good grounds for appeal. But conspiring to commit a crime or having a manifest intention to do so is itself a crime. For example, loitering with intent; if it's provable, you're gone.

Michael: "Our system of law is flawed... That's why we have appeals courts. Juries don't always get it right, judges give the wrong directions, police and authorities tell lies (see Dr Haneef)."

Precisely. Having appeals courts does not show that the system is flawed. What it does show is that there is provision built in for when juries and judges get it wrong. The fact that Haneef walked out a free man is a point in the system's favour, not one against it.

I think that British justice stacks up pretty well against say, sharia justice, as dispensed for example, in Iran. Do you require me to give you examples to back that statement up?

"The law is an ass"

Ian MacDougall: "As I see it (and I confess I have not followed the details of the case closely), these men have been found guilty of a crime by an Australian court. They have not yet been sentenced."

With respect, after our involvement in the incarceration of Parkin, Haneef and Hicks, that a man of your apparent intelligence can have faith in the Australian legal system with regards to this current case is something that, to me, is amazing.

The previous government have had no apparent compunction in bending the law to suit their political purposes, and this is the flow-through. The fact that the Rudd Gov't have treated it as more "business as usual" is totally disappointing.

Almost as disappointing, in fact, as watching (amidst a group of people open-minded enough to change their points of view on presentation of evidence) people advocating blinded unquestioning of our justice system despite a repeated display of our system's inability to deal with a certain issue.

Whatever sentence, they'll get sentenced. That's enough. Unless the judge has the brains to treat it like Bryan Law's and slap a hundred dollar fine on their wrists. Anyone forget that particular Howard/Ruddock legal failure?

I've never asked you, Ian and Jenny, what you thought of that particular application of the law?

Maybe our society’s become so stunted that it needs a revolution to shake it up. I'm beginning to think so. Be prepared, all, for the time when you could go to jail for penning such thoughts. Ian and Jenny would probably support the verdict. There's bugger-all between such a scenario and this one.

I can take a guess at what the likes of Henry Lawson would've thought of this (did I mention I studied for two years under a Lawson Scholar, Brian Matthews, was introduced to him by John Schumann?) and my guess is that he'd be bloody disgusted that Australians would send people to jail for words of rebellion.

Some might respond that times have changed. Sadly, they might be right.

Kangaroo courts

Ian MacDougall: "British justice stacks up...against ... say, Sharia justice..."

On this effort you'd be hard pressed to find a difference.

More criminals working in Baxter & Woomera

Jenny, if you saw 4 Corners on Monday night you should know that the police who manhandled Cornelia Rau actually terrorised her so much it took months to semi-recover.

You really have to stop being so mind-numbingly compliant over the nonsense spread in the media, dear.

Compliant

Marilyn Shepherd: "You really have to stop being so mind-numbingly compliant over the nonsense spread in the media, dear."

That's a bit rich coming from you when we know the rags you read to get your info.

If Cornelia Rau's family had cared about her they would have found her sooner. She was obviously as much a pain in the arse to her family as she was to everybody else.

Convicted, Marilyn

Marilyn, this has nothing to do with the issue of Cornelia Rau. This is about the conviction by a jury in a court of law of men who were charged with offences under the laws of this country. They were found guilty of certain of those offences after the evidence against them was weighed. That is how the law works in this country.

It has nothing to do with the compliance by me of anything in the media. The fact is a court of law has convicted certain people of offences. Full stop.

Mind-numbing compliancy

It does, Marilyn, and it feeds on itself.   Watching the spread in the tabloids, knowing most of the information written beforehand, I have a sense of revulsion that this situation has been built up (in the national interest no doubt) to create a national terror threat, to create a security environment that, even according to Keelty, has a great focus on Jihad prevention in the U.K

The whole focus of the War on Terror has been on eliminating possibilities, not probabilities, and the old Grand Final Jihad shouldn't wash anymore.

I'm not seeing much complaint in the letters pages.

Take all the cars off the road

1. Martin Bryant became a mass murderer after he murdered people. What if he had been jailed before he did anything? Would that have been rational?

2. In Iraq and Afghanistan car bombs are used to kill people. Do we take all the cars off the road today just in case?

3. Some men are rapists. Let's lock all of them up to prevent rape.

These men were convicted of talking. Nothing more. It is like we are now living in Communist China, whom we bag for locking up people for talking.

Benbrika did nothing more than talk and if you are going to lock up people for talking based only on the words of a certified nutcase with no trace of actual evidence that they are going to do anything we may as well call this place New North Korea.

Lock 'em all up!

Come on, Marilyn!  "Some men are rapists. Let's lock all of them up to prevent rape." Utter nonsense. You are pre-supposing guilt with no evidence.

The fact that an impartial jury found sufficient evidence to convict Benbrika and his mates for conspiring to commit a  heinous crime gives me confidence in our judicial system.

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,24357227-29277,00.html

Victorian police chief Christine Nixon today said Benbrika has exploited his followers in the name of Islam:

"It is fair to say that Benbrika preyed on the vulnerability of young men under the cloak of religion as a means to extol his own extremist version of Islam," Ms Nixon told reporters.

"Extremists use various tools to exert a considerable amount of influence including advice provided under the guise of religion which includes the promise of paradise maidens.

"The tactic of enticing youth to be martyrs in the cause of Allah is one often used by people such as Benbrika"

Wait for it do we?

From the comments here it seems we just sit and wait for the attacks and then go after the perpetrators. Surely prevention of a terrorist act is what security is all about.

Honestly, if women practised the wait and see philosophy in regard to breast cancer, then a lot more women would be dead. Just as a lot more people would be dead if the security services around the world sat back and waited for the attacks to be imminent, thereby risking some bombers to slip through the net to do their deeds.

Here we had a group of disaffected young Muslims led by a bloke with an apparent expressed desire for violent jihad and a desire to take out as many people as possible, but a bit short on means when arrested. I congratulate the police for hauling them all in and for the successful prosecutions.

And I believe if it takes phone taps and undercover work to ensnare these individuals, then so be it. They were not planning a raid on a chocolate factory for heaven's sake. They were planning to kill people. There is a difference.

Not only that, undercover work has long been used in the prevention of crime.

Preventing terrorism

Jenny, if a bloke comes along and says "I know how to make a bomb" and you say  "beauty, we've got no bloody idea, could you give us a clue?" and the ASIO officer you were talking to reports the conversation, exactly how close were you to blowing something up?

And yes, the matter of the only corroboration of the circumstantial evidence being a florid paranoid schizophrenic with a penchant for fraud doesn't help either.

I tried to raise the topic of "Preventing Terrorism:Where do we begin?" exactly a year ago.  Since then we've had the Haneef case fall apart, and this one, based on hearsay and ASIO "gunna" tapes, finally succeed, with the result of what I consider the impossible act of these twits considering blowing up the AFL Grand Final being presented ini the Murdochs as an implied prevention of terrorist act.

Keelty's card-up-the-sleeve has turned out to be a joker.

I'm sorry, but I can't totally accept the concept (far from, in fact)  that whatever it takes to prevent a crime from occurring is ok. It sounds too close to a Clayton's trial situation, and leaves too much power in the hands of the likes of Keelty, who have demonstrated themselves as incompetent to wield it.

As I wrote last year, what happens when it's decided that words written on Webdiary encourage terrorism?

Convicted is good enough for me

Richard, if they were convicted then that is good enough for me.  Are people saying here these defendants should not have been convicted, and that there was no substance to the evidence against them, because that is what is seems like to me. If so, then what they are saying is that the system of justice under which these men were convicted is fatally flawed. Well I don't buy that for one minute.

This not just a case of a few fellows getting together and having a gossip session. Honestly, what does it take for people on this site to accept that there is a terrorist threat from Muslim extremists around the world, including in this country, and accept that we need to detect them before they carry out their violent jihad. 

And that will require the security services to use whatever tools they have at their disposal. As I said undercover work and phone tapping has long been a very successful tool in bringing people who are determined to commit a crime to justice.

People have been convicted for conspiracy to commit murder many times. They do not have to carry out the murder to end up in gaol. And so it should be with these nut cases. 

What would you all be saying here had these men not been detected, had got the means to carry out their plans, and then done it, killing many innocent people in the process? Blamed the security services for failing to detect them no doubt.  

I am surprised how some here try to play down this whole matter as if these men were planning nothing more than a raid on a chocolate factory.

I don't feel any safer

I have to wait to see what more information I can get about these verdicts and the evidence presented.

As far as I know so far, ASIO or AFP agents were used at various times – such as in a plot to buy fertiliser etc. When do these agents cross the fine line of seeking information to "nudging" the so-called plot along?

This has been found time and time again in the UK to be the case and led to extraordinary grief and eventual overturning of verdicts. Particularly in IRA plots.

In the USA it's reached epidemic proportions. We have a private profit-making website combining with the huge TV conglomerate NBC and local police forces to create a crime in their To Catch A Predator series. This is "thought crime" with "virtual" crimes being created for entertainment but the purpose given to catch predators. But do they? Or are they arresting fantasy merchants?

This is now happening in Australia with the AFP having officers go on-line pretending to be a 14 year old. Laws are created to convict a person of "believing" they are about to commit a crime.

The line has been crossed in these cases. We no longer arrest people for actual crime, rather we are arresting people for thinking about committing a crime. I'd suggest every citizen does that daily from thinking about illegal parking to throttling a radio shock jock to smothering kisses – if not having raunchy sex – with a person who catches their eye walking down the street.

Yet for most people this is a process of their mind "letting off steam" and coping with daily life. It's dismissed in the mind and possibly happens to us more times than we can acknowledge.

Most will think the predator issue is OK but I see a pattern emerging where the steady procession of these cases, the sensational reporting with the matter dying down, leads to a general acceptance of this process – a witch hunt works every time.

The Dr Haneef case took us all by surprise including our security and policing services. Even then we now see a determined outcome was sought by means fair and foul. Imagine if there was previous knowledge of the Glasgow bombing – would Dr Haneef be a free man today?

Keystone Cops and Beagle Boys

What do you call an ASIO officer infiltrating the group to tell them he knows how to make a bomb from fertiliser? A bullshit artist?

This is one of the cases that Keelty told us to shut up about until over, when we would see a horrible threat to Australia revealed in embryonic form.

If Keelty's AFP has been our counterterrorism analogy of the Keystone Cops, Benbrika's crew would be the Beagle Boys. No money, no contacts (nobody wanted to know them), arguing the ethics of stripping stolen cars down to spare parts to aid the case. Benbrika may have considered himself an "Osama bin London," but what did he have to work with?

Where did one of them go for funding help?. Lebanon I think? Anyway, he got none, and had to scarper back home because of investigation.

This was not a trained and funded terrorism cell about to use local products to create mass destructions. This was a bunch of disaffected young Muslims who, in spite of professing a desire for Jihad, didn't have a clue how to go about it.

Benbrika is an aspirant architect of mass destruction, I'm betting for his own personal glory. But these other drongos? Were they truly the terrorist threat on Australian soil that we've been reading of over the past days? It appears to me that they couldn't have organised a fart in a baked bean factory.

And yet...

Richard, there is no easy answer. It is best that the would-be copycats of Bali, London, Madrid, Glasgow, New York, Washington and all the places where bombs have gone off in the Muslim world be caught before the event, not after.

Moreover, there is only the most tenuous connection between most of these bombings, which have happened in the Muslim world, and the great Arab grievance of Israel.

The police are in an invidious position: damned if they do and damned if they don't.

Though your and my chances of dying from a bomb are terribly small, the probability of someone being blown up is a hell of a lot greater.

From what I can see, nobody is complaining that these characters, however akin to the Beagle Boys they might be, did not get a fair trial.

nah!

Onya Mark, for raising this - it will win you few friends, but that's not the point. Because with this case we are back to the old and fierce civil liberties versus law and order battle that the 7 30 Report, for example, used as the basis for its report on Monday night.

Maybe this case is the one the authorities had hoped Haneef would be. Haneef demonstrated just how "Wild West" the controversial laws in question are, of course.

In a way, the discussion is fruitless because these bods haven't been sentenced yet. I hear of twenty-five year sentences - no way!

Had they kept them under surveillance until they had actually acted on their notions, say to the point of arming themselves and having some concrete plan in place they were obviously determined to "do", a la Guy Fawkes, I could have felt much more comfortable with all of this.

I don't like wire taps and so forth, either. They represent some sort of fundamental assault on principles of democracy, to me.

Yet if the tapes are real, it can't be said Benbrika and co are little lambs in the woods, whatever their sense of indignation at the injustices suffered by Muslims elsewhere.

But are we not, for all the anger and malice ventilated in the tapes, still at "thought-crime" level?

I'll wait on appeals and sentencing before going too much further with this at the mo. I understand the authorities looking to make a point about hotheads tempted to get involved in crackpottery, but am not impressed with scapegoating as a principle for a civilised justice system.

I fear the exception could be become the norm and see our society go totalitarian also, eventually. Slippery slope and all that...

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Justin Obodie: Why not, with a bang? in Not with a bang ... 50 weeks 2 days ago
Fiona Reynolds: Dear Albatross in Not with a bang ... 50 weeks 2 days ago
Michael Talbot-Wilson: Good luck in Not with a bang ... 50 weeks 2 days ago
Fiona Reynolds: Goodnight and good luck in Not with a bang ... 50 weeks 4 days ago
Margo Kingston: bye, babe in Not with a bang ... 51 weeks 23 hours ago