Portrait of the terrorist as a Melbourne man
August 19, 2009
THIS photograph of Shane Kent posing with an AK-47 assault rifle was on a CD seized from the Melbourne terror cell member in 2003, in a folder titled ''Taliban''.
Customs officers found the photograph, and others like it, on a CD dated 2002 after he flew home from the United Arab Emirates due to a passport problem. The photographs show Kent wearing a combination of camouflage and traditional Islamic clothing, adopting poses similar to those of mujahideen and jihadi fighters.
Other material seized from Kent included a computer storage device containing an al-Qaeda training manual, with instructions on carrying out terrorist activities. There were movie files of Taliban executions, one depicting the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, and glorifying martyrs.
An email sent by Kent on another overseas trip in 2001, the same year he did military training at al-Qaeda's al-Farooq training camp, expressed his view that ''military training is an Islamic obligation, not an option''.
Details of the seized material were contained in a summary of agreed facts tendered to the Supreme Court yesterday as part of a plea hearing for Kent, 33, who pleaded guilty last month to being a member of a Melbourne terror cell between July 2004 and November 2005, and recklessly making a document (a propaganda video) connected with a terrorist act.
John O'Sullivan, for Kent, said the photograph of his client posing with the gun could have been taken ''in a suburban backyard in Melbourne''.
Justice Bernard Bongiorno replied: ''You could read an awful lot into that if you wanted to look at it in light of the fact that he admitted being a member of a terrorist organisation. It's pretty frightening, isn't it?''
But Mr O'Sullivan said Kent had told him the gun was a fake. ''I don't seek to trivialise it, but there's an element with Kent of, 'I could've been a mujahideen,' '' he said. ''He goes to [the al-Farooq] camp but he's not interested in fighting, he dresses up as a mujahideen but doesn't engage in the activities of one. The only thing he does is participate in the making of the video.''
A jury failed to reach a verdict on whether Kent was a member of a Melbourne terror cell when he and 11 others, seven of whom were found guilty of terrorism offences, stood trial last year. Kent's guilty plea came as he was about to face a retrial on the membership charge, and a trial over his part in creating the propaganda video.
Kent admitted creating images for an introduction to the video Such are the Messengers Tested, which glorifies martyrs and others imprisoned for their commitment to jihad and urges viewers to follow their example. It features images of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and a speech by its former Iraq leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, calling on Muslims to join the jihad against Americans, Jews, Christians and other ''enemies'' of Islam.
John Champion, SC, who also represented Kent, said his client - who is married with three children - was mentally ill at the time of the offending and a psychiatrist believed it was ''highly likely his ability to make decisions and exercise sound social judgments was compromised''.
He said Kent had a family history of mental illness and had previously abused alcohol and illicit drugs.
Mr Champion said Kent was remorseful for his crimes and continued to suffer major depression in prison where he spent almost three years following his arrest in November 2005. Kent was bailed in October last year but jailed again last month after pleading guilty to the membership and video charges.
Kent, whose wife is expecting a fourth child, was looking towards the future ''as far as he can'' and retained his Islamic beliefs but was no longer practising, Mr Champion said.
His plea hearing resumes before Justice Bongiorno today.