October 23, 2008 02:55pm
JACK Thomas mouthed "thank you" to a jury after it found him not guilty of taking money from terror group al-Qaida this afternoon.
But the jury found him guilty of using a falsified passport.
Mr Thomas's family cried as the verdicts were handed down.
Joseph Terrence Thomas, 35, had pleaded not guilty to intentionally receiving funds from a terrorist organisation and using a falsified passport.
He was originally convicted on the same charges in 2006, but the Court of Appeal later quashed the conviction.
The appeal court later ruled there should be another trial based on fresh evidence contained in interviews Mr Thomas gave to the ABC's Four Corners program about his actions while in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Defence counsel Jim Kennan, SC, told the Supreme Court jury earlier this week that if they found Mr Thomas not guilty it did not mean they were being "soft on terror'', but rejecting a case "riddled with doubt''.
He said the case against his client was "guilt by association'' and urged the jury to remember the world was a different place before attacks on America on September 11, 2001, and his client had not travelled to join al-Qaida.
"You may think, for instance, he was a stupid and naive young man to go and fight for the Taliban in a civil war . . . but going and doing that doesn't make him a part of al-Qaida's network,'' Mr Kennan told the jury.
Prosecutor Nick Robinson, SC, told the jury that Mr Thomas was a calculating man who mixed with significant decision-makers within the terror organisation.
A Supreme Court jury heard last week that Mr Thomas took $US3500 and a plane ticket home from a senior al-Qaida member in Pakistan.
Mr Thomas refused a request by Khaled bin Attash to work for the terror group in Australia but allegedly took $US3500 and a travel ticket offered to him.
Mr Robinson told the Supreme Court Mr Thomas travelled overseas in 2001 because he believed he had a religious or moral obligation to fight with the Taliban for a Muslim state in Afghanistan.
A jury was told he went to the Al-Farooq training camp, where he saw Osama bin Laden at least three times and took part in military training preparing him for the front line.
He claimed in the TV interview that he had no idea the military camp he went to was run by the terror group, despite seeing Osama bin Laden.
Mr Robinson said Mr Thomas came to know "a number of significant figures in al-Qaida'' during his two years in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The court heard Mr Thomas wanted to return home by January 2003 and had a discussion with bin Attash on the day he was due to leave.
Mr Robinson said evidence of Mr Thomas accepting the money and air ticket and what the two men talked about would come in the Muslim convert's own words.
The jury was told Mr Thomas gave a TV interview in which he said bin Attash claimed bin Laden wanted a "white boy'' to work for him in Australia.
Mr Robinson said Mr Thomas refused, but took the money and plane ticket from bin Attash.
The jury heard Mr Thomas said during the TV interview: "The money I took wasn't at all for terror work. The money that I received had nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.
"My money was because I hadn't worked for so many years and I had a family to support.''
Mr Thomas said the $US3500 was raised for him by sympathetic Pakistanis who wanted him to be able to return to Australia.
But he said that two or three weeks before his departure in early 2003 bin Attash "hijacked'' the plan to send him home.
The court heard bin Attash came with a message from bin Laden and wanted Mr Thomas to work for them in Australia.
"He walked up the stairs into the kitchen . . . and said out of the blue that an attack on Australia like in Tanzania or Nairobi would bring the Government down and there would be chaos in Australia,'' Mr Thomas recalled.
Mr Robinson said Mr Thomas took the money and ticket from bin Attash, never intending to carry out any work for him in Australia.
"He sold a handpass - he deceived al-Qaida,'' he said. "He wasn't naive. He was, you might think, foolish. But he was certainly calculating.''
Mr Thomas was arrested and jailed in Pakistan after trying to leave on a falsified passport.
Defence lawyer Mr Kennan said prosecutors could not prove a money trail linking the $US3500 to al-Qaida or that his client knew the money came from the terror group.
Mr Kennan said Mr Thomas used a falsified passport because he feared his visa for Afghanistan would get him a "one-way ticket to Guantanamo (Bay)''.
Outside court Mr Kennan said the verdict was a great relief for his client who would celebrate it "quietly".
"He has now been acquitted of all terrorism-related charges and obviously that is a matter of great satisfaction for him," Mr Kennan said.
"It is a big relief for him. He has had this hanging over his head for many years and it has now been brought to a conclusion.
"Mr Thomas won't be giving any interviews now or in the future on this matter."
Mr Kennan also took a swipe at terror laws and called for a Bill of Rights to be introduced in Australia.
"I think, like a lot of other barristers, we are concerned about the terror laws and we are concerned about the erosion of civil liberties.
"The continual erosion of rights ... is a matter of genuine community concerns and that is why it is so important that we have juries who can work through this evidence in an impartial manner."