Man gives the one-finger Islamic State salute after he’s found guilty of trying to join the group
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When Moudasser Taleb was arrested near the departure lounge at Sydney international airport with luggage including military clothing, he told police he was a tourist not a terrorist.
But the 24-year-old has now been found guilty of preparing to travel to Syria – between early February and mid-June 2017 – for the purpose of engaging in hostile activities.
A NSW Supreme Court jury deliberated for less than five hours on Thursday after Taleb pleaded not guilty.
The jury rejected the defence claim that Taleb had no intention of engaging in warfare or was mentally ill at the time.
Dressed in orange prison jumpsuit and dark green velcro sneakers, Taleb appeared to give the one-fingered ISIS salute when he was last seen leaving court in handcuffs last week.
Justice Peter Hamill will hear sentencing submissions on May 10.
After an undercover police sting, Taleb was arrested at the airport on June 15, 2017, with a bag containing military clothing, a sleeping bag, tactical gloves, a solar charger and other gear.
Prosecutor Sam Duggan cited material from 2015 and 2016 which he said showed Taleb was interested in ISIS, overseas battle and martyrdom well before an undercover operative became involved in March 2017.
The operative made online contact stating ‘I’m from the pest control service’ and arranged the first of five meetings which were secretly recorded.
The fact that Taleb met the operative in the first place showed it was something he wanted to do, Mr Duggan told the jury.
‘He didn’t have any contacts, he didn’t have any means of knowing how to travel overseas.
‘The Crown says that is why he met the undercover officer.’
Taleb did various things the officer suggested including long-distance training wearing walking boots and carrying a backpack, purchasing the overseas gear and trying to send $300 to a person he believed was a contact in Syria to facilitate his travel there.
Taleb also had well over 200 videos on his phone including some showing beheadings, people with ISIS flags and battlefields.
His barrister, Michael Finnane QC, submitted his client was a stupid, deluded ‘idiot’ who had no intention of engaging in warfare, overthrowing a government or harming anyone.
Taleb believed he had an electronic chip implanted in his brain and spent most of his days playing on his PlayStation and caring for his severely disabled mother who has multiple sclerosis, Mr Finnane said.
The crown and defence psychiatrists agreed that after Taleb went into custody he was found to have schizophrenia, but they disagreed about whether he had the condition at the time of the alleged offences.
Taleb gave evidence, telling the jury he knew he was not going to get beyond the airport.
He said the undercover officer ‘could read my thoughts anyway’ and if Taleb played along ‘I would be able to expose what was happening to me – and I did’.
Authorities do not believe his family were involved or had any prior knowledge of his alleged attempt to flee the country.
NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Dave Hudson said at the time Taleb radicalised himself online and had been engaging with people overseas.
‘(It’s) very much a lone wolf factor – he’s been radicalised online and we don’t believe that he’s been involved with any other people in NSW or Australia,’ the commander of investigations and counter-terrorism said.
His mother Angel Merhab has previously described Islamic State as ‘ridiculous’ and said people that tried to radicalise young Muslims were ‘evil’.
‘I was surprised because he wasn’t brought up like that,’ Ms Merhab told Channel 10 following her son’s arrest.
‘People that do that are definitely evil.
‘I know he is a good boy, a very good boy. All I can say is I love him.’
Source: Daily Mail