A Sydney man who was jailed for 12 years for compiling a terrorist textbook is fighting to be freed from prison after being rearrested for allegedly attempting to communicate with a convicted ISIS financier.
Belal Saadallah Khazaal, 51, on Monday appeared before the NSW Supreme Court, where his lawyers successfully argued for him to be freed on bail after being charged with contravening a control order.
However, there was a late twist in the case, with the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions immediately flagging their intention to appeal Justice Hament Dhanji’s decision to grant bail.
Mr Khazaal was originally released from prison in August 2020, having served his full prison term after he was found guilty of making a document connected with assisting a terrorist act.
A jury found him guilty of penning a book titled “Provisions on the Rules of Jihad” which referred to targeting foreign nationals, promoted assassination including within Australia and was published on a website supported by al-Qaeda.
The 110-page book was described as a “practical guide to achieving martyrdom”.
Upon his release, authorities successfully applied for him to be subject to control orders, which required him to wear a tracking device and restricted his movements and freedoms while he was reintegrated back into society.
The control orders included a prohibition on him contacting anyone who was presently in jail.
Police have alleged that several months after being freed from prison he twice attempted to make contact with Ali Al-Talebi, who was the first Australian to be convicted of funding terrorism when he was found guilty of sending $6000 to Pakistan.
Al-Talebi was in 2017 sentenced to a maximum of 12 years in jail.
After being charged and arrested in April, Mr Khazaal applied for bail on six grounds, with his barrister Michael Coroneos attacking what he described as a weak crown case.
He faces up to five years in jail if found guilty of contravening the control orders, with the breaches alleged to have taken place in March and April.
The crown has alleged that on two occasions Mr Khazaal attempted to communicate with Al-Talebi, who is still in prison, via Al-Talebi’s sister.
He is also alleged to have given Al-Talebi’s sister an envelope containing $4800 and instructed her to make a deposit into Al-Talebi’s jail bank account.
Mr Khazaal instructed Al-Talebi’s sister to tell Al-Talebi the money was for “Ramadan”, the court heard.
Mr Coroneos said his client was defending the charges and he was unlikely to face trial until late 2022 or early 2023.
Mr Coroneos said one of the allegations involved Mr Khazaal congratulating Al-Talebi’s sister on her decision to wear a hijab, and that he had suggested she should pass on a message to Al-Talebi that he had taken the opportunity to congratulate her before he had.
The court also heard that Mr Khazaal’s wife had claimed in an affidavit she owned the $4800 and it was her decision to hand it over.
Justice Dhanji noted that Mr Khazaal’s conversation about the hijab could be construed as him saying “tell him I beat him to it” but also as a “suggestion” for “something that she could say on her own behalf”.
Justice Dhanji granted bail on a raft of conditions, including that he stump up a $400,000 surety, not contact any witnesses and report to police daily.
However, prosecutor Lester Fernandez told the court that the crown would appeal the decision.
Justice Dhanji stayed Mr Khazaal’s release until after any appeal was heard at a later date.