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Mustafa Dirani’s ‘extreme beliefs’ laid bare in court

Lawyers for Mustafa Dirani have asked a jury to put his “extreme beliefs” aside in judging if he was part of a terrorist conspiracy that led to police accountant Curtis Cheng’s death.

Mr Cheng was gunned down outside the Parramatta police headquarters by radicalised 15-year-old Farhad Mohammad on October 2, 2015.

Mr Dirani is accused of consenting to plans to commit a terrorist attack in Australia as well as an alternative charge of helping supply the gun used to shoot Mr Cheng.

At the time of the alleged offences, Mr Dirani was 22 years old.

He pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to do acts in preparation for a terrorist act and supplying a firearm.

In a trial that began this week, defence barrister Nathan Steel argued that Mr Dirani had no knowledge of plans to carry out an attack being made by alleged co-conspirator Raban Alou.

“There’s no dispute that there was such a conspiracy but it’s in dispute that Mr Dirani was party to such a conspiracy,” Mr Steel said.

Against a background of the increasing influence of ISIS globally in 2015, Mr Dirani allegedly shared material supporting the group and graphic videos including beheadings and mass killings.

These allegedly included deadly ISIS attacks in France and Tunisia and a beheading in Kuwait.

Mr Steel asked the jury to put any emotions and prejudices aside in determining Mr Dirani’s role in the attack on Mr Cheng.

“Whatever Mr Dirani’s views or beliefs may have been, to be guilty of this offence he must have entered into an agreement (to carry out an attack),” Mr Steel said.

“Put any prejudices or concerns you have in relation to people who hold these views aside.”

The court was also told on Wednesday that Mr Dirani’s friend and alleged co-conspirator Mr Alou had entered into an “Islamic” marriage with a girl under the age of 16, causing conflict with his own family members who objected to it.

Mr Alou had moved out of his family home and into a property to live with the girl, Mr Steel told the court.

Both men were members of a WhatsApp group called “The Bricks” who shared extreme Islamic material, the court was told.

Mr Dirani at one point changed the group’s icon to an image of an armed man and posted material including the call to action, “real men are known in times of hardship”.

Crown prosecutor David Staehli SC noted that in determining Mr Dirani’s intentions, the jury would have to interpret the group’s language.

“The people carrying out these acts don’t always use the word terrorism themselves,” Mr Staehli said.

“They use words like jihad, fighting, death and punishment.”

SHOOTING
Camera IconLawyers for Mr Dirani asked the jury to put his ‘extreme beliefs’ aside in determining his guilt. Phillip Rogers Credit: News Corp Australia

On the day of the shooting, police surveillance captured Mr Dirani attending a series of meetings with Mr Alou during which the gun used to shoot Mr Cheng was allegedly obtained from a third party.

Mr Steel argued his client had no knowledge of the nature of the meetings and was not aware that a firearm had been exchanged.

He argued that Mr Dirani had attended the meetings as a friend of Mr Alou so the pair could get some food together following a prayer session.

Mr Steel also put forward that Mr Dirani did not know the shooter Farhad Mohammad and had never had any “dealings or interactions” with him.

“They went to the same mosque but there’s no evidence to suggest they knew each other,” he said.

The trial continues.

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