Sydney men appeal sentences for plot to fund Islamic State

A Sydney man who was jailed for planning to behead a stranger still won’t stand for a judge despite claiming he has renounced his extremist views, a court has heard.

Omarjan Azari refused to stand for Justice Natalie Adams in 2019 when she sentenced him to serve an 18-year prison term after being convicted of two separate terrorism-related plots.

His accomplice in one scheme to send money overseas to IS fighters, Ali al-Talebi, was in 2017 jailed for a maximum of 12 years after being found guilty of attempting to fund the terrorist organisation in 2014.

Both men are appealing their sentences, claiming they played the lesser role, and argue their respective sentences are excessive when compared to the other’s.

Stephen Odgers SC, representing Azari, told the court on Monday his client had since renounced all extremist views and his support for IS, but says he would not stand for a judge due to religious beliefs.

Mr Odgers said that concession, which he did not have to make, “adds credibility” to Azari’s claims of de-radicalisation.

Al-Talebi is serving at least nine years behind bars after being found guilty of three charges stemming from a meeting at a western Sydney mosque on August 6, 2014.

Sydney men appeal sentences for plot to fund Islamic State

Camera IconA court sketch of Omarjan ‘Omar’ Azari. Credit: Herald Sun

The NSW Supreme Court found he handed over wads of cash to Azari in the carpark of Parramatta mosque who then provided it to a contact, named M2, who was to transfer the cash to Pakistan.

Iraq-born refugee al-Talebi, 31, was convicted of supplying $6000, and making another US$9000 available to terrorists, and sentenced to at least nine years’ jail.

His barrister Richard Pontello SC told the court Azari played the greater role and argued it was incorrect to say his client had sourced the funds.

Mr Pontello said Azari attended a money exchange in Auburn to obtain the US$9000 before giving it to al-Talebi for safe keeping. Azari also told him to bring the $6000 to the August 6 meeting, he said.

Sydney men appeal sentences for plot to fund Islamic State

Camera IconSlain Australian jihadists Caner Temel (left) and Mohammed Ali Baryalei in 2013. Credit: Supplied

His client was “more of a bank teller” than anything else, Mr Pontello said, and had no involvement in plans for domestic terrorism.

Azari, now in his late 20s, pleaded guilty to the attempt to fund IS and was found guilty at trial of a plot to behead Australians and drape them with the Islamic State flag.

The horrific plan was overheard in a phone call with notorious terrorist Mohammad Ali Baryalei, one of Australia’s most high-profile IS recruits, who is believed to have died in 2014.

The bulk of his 18-year sentence – 12 years – was for that offence, with the remainder added on for the attempted terrorist funding.

Mr Odgers said Azari was only appealing the time to be served for the funding offences.

He said al-Talebi was “slightly higher in the hierarchy” than his client and stressed the cash never actually reached its targets.

The court has reserved its decision on both appeals.

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