By Erin Pearson
1 October 2018
The confession of an educated, middle-class terror plotter has been played in the Supreme Court as three co-accused face trial over the alleged 2016 plan to cause mass carnage at Melbourne landmarks with bombs and knives.
The Age can now reveal for the first time that prosecution witness Ibrahim Abbas, 24, entered a plea of guilty earlier this year to conspiring to and preparing for a terrorist attack.
Born in East Melbourne, Abbas went to Darul Ulum College of Victoria, in Fawkner, before beginning tertiary studies.
The court heard that he was an intelligent young man from Melbourne’s middle-class whose fast descent into extremism saw him seek out YouTube videos to inspire his beliefs.
He told police that when he began studying at Swinburne University in 2011 his faith had been attacked as he was surrounded by drugs and alcohol. It was that and the subsequent death of a family member that drew him back to Islam.
“After [a relative] passed away, um, I began to re-evaluate my belief in God and I began to believe in God again, and then thereafter I became religious and started to seek knowledge, familiarise myself with the faith and I became religious after that,” he told the court.
“At the beginning, I didn't confine myself to one set of scholars, I just - in the beginning I learned religion in a very general sense. Eventually I began to incline towards other scholars.
“At the time I knew he [Osama Bin Laden] was the leader of Al-Qaeda.”
In 2014, a caliphate was announced by Islamic State - a religious goal that subjects a land to Sharia law.
A caliphate insists on people pledging their allegiance and encouraging people to commit attacks - jihad - in the land of the infidels who they believe are hostile towards this Muslim faith.
This, he said, includes Australia.
In 2014, Abbas was studying civil engineering and was a keen student, but told the jury he found the work “too easy”.
He lived in Flemington, then Hawthorn before moving out to Campbellfield with his wife in 2016.
It would be that address where he was eventually arrested on December 22, 2016.
Abbas regularly attended Hume Islamic Youth Centre, a mosque complex in Coolaroo. It was there, he says, that he spoke to others about his views on Islamic State and what needed to be done - jihad.
“You could ram people with a car, you can use a knife attack, you can shoot people.
“The whole point of jihad is martyrdom. Martyrdom is attaining death through acts of jihad. Your sins are erased and you are granted paradise.
“For the general Muslim population who are not martyrs, they don't enter paradise until the world is over.”
Abbas wanted to carry out his attack in a place of congregation where the casualty toll would be high.
He described the aim as: “The bigger, the more terror is achieved, and that's the point.”
This week he gave evidence in the terror trial of friend Ahmed Mohamed, 25, cousin Abdullah Chaarani, 27, and brother Hamza Abbas, 23, who are also alleged to have conspired to target places of congregation including Federation Square.
Those three have pleaded not guilty.
In a white room with a red door Ibrahim Abbas made partial confessions to his charge during his initial police interview, which was played to the jury on Monday.
“I’m going to let you know everything that was said by me,” he told AFP officers.
“I’m done with all these questions and bullshit.
“Australia is attacking Muslims in the Islamic State.”
During his lengthy police interview in the hours after his December 22, 2016 arrest Abbas said his plans and views were discussed in places including in the gym at the Hume Islamic Youth Centre.
The court heard the former university student later joined an encrypted chat group with people from Melbourne and Sydney where he posted under the handle ShiaSlayer.
Abbas also detailed to police his wish for Australia to be ruled under Sharia law.
“If Sharia was applied in Australia they would all the people would fall under a contract. Whoever does not sign that contract either leaves the country or is executed,” he said.
The jury has heard that the week before his arrest Abbas had discussed his impending desires with Mr Mohamed while police secretly listened on.
Abbas displayed a wish to enter “paradise”, a perceived Islamic afterlife only granted to Muslims at either the end of the world or, in the eyes of Islamic State, immediately upon death through jihad.
The Crown alleges that the agreement contemplated the use of improvised explosives, bladed weapons, firearms to wage violent jihad against those they considered to be disbelievers, also known as Kafirs.
According to this ideology Australia is one of the group of Western nations regarded as enemies of Islamic State.
The Crown alleges the three conspired with Ibrahim Abbas to commit acts in preparation of a terrorist attack.
The alleged acts include the purchase of chemicals and explosive substances for the use in the manufacture of improvised explosive devices.
The trial of Mr Mohamed, Mr Chaarani and Hamza Abbas continues before Justice Beale and a jury of 14.