British-born muslim admits al-Qa'ida bomb plot role

Click to follow

Australia's first trial in the war on terror ended yesterday when British-born Jack Roche changed his plea from innocent to guilty, admitting his role in an al-Qa'ida plot to blow up the Israeli embassy in Canberra.

Australia's first trial in the war on terror ended yesterday when British-born Jack Roche changed his plea from innocent to guilty, admitting his role in an al-Qa'ida plot to blow up the Israeli embassy in Canberra.

The trial of the Muslim convert, who first came in contact with Islamic militants while in Australia and who later lunched with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, threw new light on how terrorist cells are operating in Asia. After making contact with the South-east Asia terror group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) in the Australian city of Perth, Roche met the group's senior operatives before traveling to Pakistan and to an al-Qa'ida training camp in Afghanistan where he met Bin Laden.

At his trial this week, Roche told Perth District Court that when al-Qa'ida terrorists in Afghanistan told him in April 2000 to investigate the possibilities of bombing Israeli targets in Australia, he went along with the plan, partly because he feared they would kill him otherwise.

Roche changed his plea 10 days into his trial, avoiding further cross-examination that was due to continue yesterday. Roche, 50, faces a maximum 25-year prison term when the court sentences him on Tuesday.

Michael Duthie, a federal police agent, said he had always been hopeful of a guilty verdict or plea. He said: "To get it now is late in the day, but we're happy with it nevertheless."

Roche was arrested in raids by intelligence agents after the Bali bombings of 12 October 2002. He is the first person to be tried and convicted under Australia's anti-terror laws, introduced after the 11 September attacks in America.

During his trialRoche said he converted to Islam in 1993 and joined JI in late 1997. Roche said he had hoped to "further his understanding of Islam" during his travels to Pakistan and Afghanistan. He expected to fight alongside the Taliban against the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. But after a chance encounter with Bin Laden in an eating hall, he was questioned by senior al-Qa'ida officials about Israeli targets in Australia. He "had to agree to something" in Afghanistan, he said, "in order to appease them".

Roche said he planned to undermine his mission by exploiting a power struggle between Hambali, JI's operations chief, and the Indonesian twins Abdul Rahim and Abdul Rahman Ayub, the Australian leaders of JI.

Comments