This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/2789

French Muslim convert Willie Brigitte gets 9 years for Al Qaeda plot to blow up Sydney nuclear reactor

Wife he married 6 weeks prior to arrest studies in Australia and member of university cricket team
March 24, 2007

French terrorist Willie Brigitte gets 9 years http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2007/s1873205.htm

AM - Friday, 16 March , 2007 08:08:00

Reporter: Rafael Epstein

TONY EASTLEY: As Khalid Sheik Mohammad was making his admissions; thousands of kilometres away another terrorist was facing French justice.

When it came down to the wire, the French court didn't believe Willie Brigitte when he claimed he'd travelled to Australia to seek a new life.

Instead the court came down on the side of the prosecution, which said the French Muslim convert was involved in planning terrorist attacks in Australia, and it sentenced him to nine years in prison.

Brigitte was found to have helped in a plot that Australian authorities say included major targets like the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor or Sydney's electricity grid.

Europe Correspondent, Rafael Epstein was in the Paris courtroom for AM.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: The French court's draft judgement makes it clear. The judges rule that 38-year-old Willie Brigitte was involved in a group allied to al-Qaeda from the time of his conversion to Islam in Paris in 1998.

The court said he took others for hiking trips in French national parks before they were then sent overseas for training, and that his own visit to militant training camps in Pakistan and his work in a kebab shop in Western Sydney were preparation for a major attack. (MIM note see below for what his former boss says about him)

Brigitte was calm, and barely acknowledged the judge's verdict. The hearing was over in minutes and armed guards whisked him back to a holding cell.

His lawyer, Harry Dumirel, says he'll have to persuade his client to appeal, and that Brigitte may now have to break his self-imposed courtroom silence when and if he appears before a higher court.

HARRY DUMIREL: We find this judgement needs to be contested in appeal. Mr Brigitte has refused to talk. He says he does not believe, he does not trust, anymore his country's justice.

We're going to have to convince him that we do believe that there is more to say, and he will have to talk then.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Brigitte's lawyers query why - if he so central to the Australian plot - why is it he was never called to give evidence in the trial of Faheem Khalid Lodhi, who was sentenced to 20 years in jail.

Brigitte's lawyers say Australia will never put him on trial because the evidence against him is so weak.

Prosecutors had wanted the 10-year maximum. The judges said he should get a tough sentence. As he's already spent nearly three and half years in jail, there's a six-year minimum, so he could be out in a little over two and a half years.

HARRY DUMIREL: I do think, deep in my mind, that Willie Brigitte has never thought of killing nobody. If he had thought so, I wouldn't passionately be involved.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: And is your argument essentially still that it's just guilt by association?

HARRY DUMIREL: Of, but the association of what? What is the plot? He has people what; I hear the Australian judgement say that here is no proof of him implicated in no plot of murder.

They didn't call him to be judged in Australia. They have judged people that he met, so why didn't they call him if he has something to do in Australia?

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: The court also delivered a 10-year sentence in absentia to Sajid Mir. There's no photo of the man, and he's never been captured.

Mir is said to have co-ordinated both Brigitte and Lodhi while they were in Australia, having met the men at a training camp in Pakistan. Sajid Mir is accused of managing the so-called foreign fighters who travelled there.

This is Rafael Epstein in Paris for AM mel Keep on running ... cricket fan Melanie Brown is pressing on with life despite the jailing of her former husband, terrorist Willie Brigitte. / The Daily Telegraph http://www.news.com.au/sundaytelegraph/story/0,,21394454-5001021,00.html Brigitte wife bats on THE Australian former wife of convicted terrorist Willie Brigitte was yesterday in "good spirits" despite the nine-year jail sentence handed down to her ex-husband. As lawyers for the French terrorist planned an appeal which could see Brigitte break his self-imposed silence, friends of his former wife Melanie Brown said yesterday she seemed unphased by his conviction. Brigitte, a 38-year-old Muslim convert, was convicted in a French court early yesterday of plotting a 9/11-style attack on Sydney's Lucas Heights nuclear reactor. Although Brigitte could win parole in less than two years after taking into account time served, one of his lawyers, Harry Durimel, yesterday labelled the near-maximum sentence "grotesque" and motivated by "Islamophobia". "This is a pure witchhunt. No formal proof has been provided of Willie Brigitte's involvement in anything whatsoever. We are in a context of Islamophobia that wants to put away anyone who goes against the grain," Mr Durimel said. Brigitte was arrested in Australia after a tip-off from French intelligence in October 2003 on charges of "associating with criminals in relation to a terrorist enterprise". His arrest came six weeks after he married Ms Brown. Since his arrest, Ms Brown has kept a low-profile studying for a Indonesian language teaching degree at Sydney University and joining its women's cricket club. The university's head of women's cricket Alexandra Vaughan yesterday said she had spoken to the former army officer by telephone and she seemed in "good spirits". Brigitte's former boss Ahlima Mohd who employed him at their two cafes up to his arrest in 2003 said she was surprised by his conviction and the length of his sentence. "I didn't think it would be that much," Mrs Mohd said from her Island Dreams Cafe in Haldon St, Lakemba. She said the Brigitte referred to during his French trial was not the "the person that I know". The Mohds kept in touch with Ms Brown and hired her to work as a waitress in August 2005. And although no longer employed, the women remain "good friends". "I talk to Melanie all the time, but we don't talk about Willie," she said. Brigitte's lawyers have 10 days to lodge an appeal but are yet to get permission from their reluctant client. The judgement has not yet been made public, but a draft seen by French journalists noted that the panel of three judges had relied heavily on evidence supplied by Australian authorities collected during the trial of convicted Sydney terror suspect Khalid Lodhi. The draft judgement said admissions by Brigitte he had travelled to Pakistan for paramilitary training, and had acted as a co-ordinator for Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives passing through France, had contributed to the guilty verdict. THE Australian former wife of convicted terrorist Willie Brigitte was yesterday in "good spirits" despite the nine-year jail sentence handed down to her ex-husband. As lawyers for the French terrorist planned an appeal which could see Brigitte break his self-imposed silence, friends of his former wife Melanie Brown said yesterday she seemed unphased by his conviction. Brigitte, a 38-year-old Muslim convert, was convicted in a French court early yesterday of plotting a 9/11-style attack on Sydney's Lucas Heights nuclear reactor. Although Brigitte could win parole in less than two years after taking into account time served, one of his lawyers, Harry Durimel, yesterday labelled the near-maximum sentence "grotesque" and motivated by "Islamophobia". "This is a pure witchhunt. No formal proof has been provided of Willie Brigitte's involvement in anything whatsoever. We are in a context of Islamophobia that wants to put away anyone who goes against the grain," Mr Durimel said. Brigitte was arrested in Australia after a tip-off from French intelligence in October 2003 on charges of "associating with criminals in relation to a terrorist enterprise". His arrest came six weeks after he married Ms Brown. Since his arrest, Ms Brown has kept a low-profile studying for a Indonesian language teaching degree at Sydney University and joining its women's cricket club. The university's head of women's cricket Alexandra Vaughan yesterday said she had spoken to the former army officer by telephone and she seemed in "good spirits". Brigitte's former boss Ahlima Mohd who employed him at their two cafes up to his arrest in 2003 said she was surprised by his conviction and the length of his sentence. "I didn't think it would be that much," Mrs Mohd said from her Island Dreams Cafe in Haldon St, Lakemba. She said the Brigitte referred to during his French trial was not the "the person that I know". The Mohds kept in touch with Ms Brown and hired her to work as a waitress in August 2005. And although no longer employed, the women remain "good friends". "I talk to Melanie all the time, but we don't talk about Willie," she said. Brigitte's lawyers have 10 days to lodge an appeal but are yet to get permission from their reluctant client. The judgement has not yet been made public, but a draft seen by French journalists noted that the panel of three judges had relied heavily on evidence supplied by Australian authorities collected during the trial of convicted Sydney terror suspect Khalid Lodhi. The draft judgement said admissions by Brigitte he had travelled to Pakistan for paramilitary training, and had acted as a co-ordinator for Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives passing through France, had contributed to the guilty verdict.

This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/2789