From today's Australian - editorial found here
Faheem Lodhi's conviction is a tribute to the jury system
FAHEEM Khalid Lodhi could have once looked like a poster boy for multiculturalism. He was a professionally educated man, apparently happy to have made Australia his home. Like tens of thousands of other Muslim migrants his success offered ample evidence of Australia's tradition of tolerance to all who come to this country keen to call it home. But in Lodhi's case, it was all a lie. Whatever he said about Australia, the chilling truth is that he was keen to kill as many of us as he could. Lodhi's conviction on Monday is a chilling confirmation of what has been obvious for years but still hard for some Australians to understand – that there are men in our midst with mass murder on their minds. And beyond giving the police and security services the resources to ensure they are caught before they kill, there is not a damn thing we can do to stop them.
There is certainly no point in assuming Lodhi was motivated by issues that Australians can, let alone should address. Rather, he is just the most recent recruit to the regiment of fanatics who believe that their own opinions and prejudices give them some sort of religiously inspired licence to kill. After the September 11 attacks on the US, we heard how these mass murders were a response by dispossesed Muslims to oppression from the West. These were always idiotic arguments; the bombers were not living in poverty, nor were any of them persecuted for their religion. And attempts to find any sense in Islamic terror attacks have become ever more absurd with each new Islamic terrorist conspiracy to kill. Murdering commuters in Madrid accomplished nothing. The London Tube bombers were to all outward appearances ordinary Englishmen with nothing to gain by killing their countrymen and women. It is almost impossible to find sense in the scheme of the young Canadian conspirators who allegedly planned to behead their Prime Minister as a way of forcing their nation's armed forces to pull out of Afghanistan. Certainly, we will not know whether any of the 20 or so of the Australian residents who have been charged with terror offences in the past six months planned to do the rest of us harm until they face courts. But Lodhi did.
His conviction vindicates the Howard Government's terror laws, which were called divisive and discriminatory when they were first proposed. But it also affirms the importance of maintaining a balance between the state's duty to protect us from terror attack with the rights of everyone in Australia. Federal Police chief Mick Keelty has made an argument for terrorism cases to be heard by a judge alone, as the British did in the generation-long campaign against terrorists in Northern Ireland. Given the high stakes involved, this will make sense to many ordinary Australians. Judges are discreet and disciplined, they understand the importance of keeping operational secrets. They are also unlikely to be swayed by an emotive case. And calls to protect the civil liberties of people charged with terror offences must be balanced against those most basic human rights – to be safe in our persons and property. True enough. But juries almost always ensure justice is done. The jury in the Lodhi trial agreed with three of the prosecution's claims but was not convinced by a fourth, that he was acquiring information on military bases as part of his preparations for a terror attack. Even so, the police and security services have ample reason to be pleased with this outcome. And it is all the more credible for the way Lodhi was judged by a jury of ordinary Australians on the evidence before them. The trial gave the lie to Islamic extremists who proclaim they are persecuted by the police and security services. Of course, the sort of people who make excuses for terrorism anywhere in the world will not amend their opinions, whatever the facts. But that is no reason to change the way terror suspects are tried, when Lodhi's conviction demonstrates Australia's system is working well.
What I take umbrage is this line. 'His conviction vindicates the Howard Government's terror laws, which were called divisive and discriminatory when they were first proposed.'
No it doesn't, it doesn't at all. How it doesn't is the preventative detention aspects. Lodhi was not detained in a preventative manner, nor was he prevented of telling people where he was. And when he was arrested people were allowed to discuss it openly in a public forum without being arrested. All of these laws are currently in play and belong to the broad sweep of anti-terror laws Howard bought in. This case proves nothing as far as they are concerned.
The laws are divisive and they are discriminatory. Yes the conspiracy charge laws stuck, though I for one am uncomfortable with their nature. Because I for one could be at risk of circumstantial evidence had I been investigated years before. I did an explosives course once, and I once owned a copy of the anarchist's cook book - a net print out from a friend that was given to me 'cause I thought it sounded interesting - not because I wanted to blow stuff up. Being nearly killed on three occasions during my course was enough to wipe out the romance of explosives for me.
As for now I have copies of Mein Kamph and Marquis de Sade tracts on my bookshelf - which came from a modern history course a friend of mine went through - and she gave me the books because I like books and reading all manner of stuff.
I have a bunch of books on nerd related topics which includes armaments and explosives. I have books on terrorism and transnational crime because of my uni course. I have books on espionage and a series of espionage thrillers because it's a personal interest.
But the flip side is that I am a whitey of an anglo background. So my threat level is naturally less. Make me a muslim who attended a mosque where a radical once spoke and I may appear on a watch list had the above been known.
Lodhi was sprung lying on the how and why, and from my reading of the case it appears he was up to something. Nothing proven as specifically planned - however it was enough to convict him under these new laws. And now he faces life in jail not because of anything he specifically planned to do. But because he had a bunch of freaky shit in his house, was a muslim, lied his arse off about what he planned to do with whatever to various people, and because he had ties to certain figures like Willie Brigette.
I worry about these laws being misued because there is enough scope for them to be misused - especially given possesion is enough to convict, not proven specific intent. Because it's a lot easier to cast suppositions about what's in a person's house than it is about what they specifically planned to do with it. And there is too the issue of planted items. It may not be the police - hell it could be a rival to the suspect who then dobbed them in themselves. And if people don't think the cops fit people up on occasion then read about Tim Anderson's experiences with the NSW special branch.
That being said however AFP and ASIO are professional, well trained, and almost to a man or woman highly ethical. Indeed this was evidenced in the tapes of the raid of Lodhi's house where Lodhi himself agreed they had conducted it with fairness and respect, as well as identifying the items found as his. Of course this professional ethical nature may change in the future, and there is always the chance of a bad seed getting in, or the aforementioned planting of material by another involved person outside those agencies.
But at least the Oz is right. A jury got to hear the evidence and decide. And if we have to have these laws at least 12 people have to agree (unless its majority verdict) as opposed to one person. I put great store in judges because they're experienced in law and crime. But at the same time I'd rather a multiple number of people are engaged in the decision process on guilt than a lone person who may face pressures to convict on evidence that is suspect.
I still don't like these laws, and I don't think they are neccesary. But Lodhi was convicted on evidence provided by a jury on these laws so that has to be respected.
However, as I pointed out, his arrest was public and he was charged with specific crimes. Those preventative laws are yet to be tested ... as far as I know. Because of course its against the law to disclose such things in some cases.
Now how is that not a threat to civil liberties? Terrorism works when we take fear and change our lives radically to address that fear. And that radical change includes seeking out the Daddy political party to save us from the nasty terrorist. Howard's government, and to a limited extent state ALP governments, have all played up the terror threat for political purposes. And that irks me greatly. Because they give fuckwits who spread hate oxygen and make people vote not for what they hope for but for what they fear.
And how to we grow as a people if we think every unattended package is a bomb, every burka has a suicide belt, or every brown person with an Arabic name is a potential hijacker?