Abdullah Chaarani (right) says he now takes full responsibility for his part in a terror plot to kill scores of Victorians. Picture: Stuart McEvoy
Abdullah Chaarani (right) says he now takes full responsibility for his part in a terror plot to kill scores of Victorians. Picture: Stuart McEvoy

Would-be terrorist changes story ahead of sentencing

A TERROR hopeful who vehemently denied his involvement in a plot to kill scores of Victorians has now made full admissions, on the eve of his sentencing.

Abdullah Chaarani, 29, is awaiting sentence for the Islamic State inspired plot to stage a mass attack in Melbourne CBD.

He pleaded not guilty to plotting a terrorist act, was convicted by a Supreme Court jury, then lodged an appeal against that conviction.

But he told Justice Chrisopher Beale today he had dropped his appeal bid and now took full responsibility for his offending.

Chaarani said he now denounced IS after asking himself "what are we doing hating these people, what for?".

Chaarani, his cousin Hamza Abbas, 24, and friend Ahmed Mohamed, 27, are appearing at a pre-sentence hearing where their lawyers are outlining their pleas in mitigation.

When asked by Justice Beale what Chaarani would say to cynical members of the public who accused him of trying to reduce his sentence, Chaarani said he suffered stage fright.

He said the crippling anxiety had stopped him from taking the stand earlier and explaining his role in the terror plot.

Ahmed Mohamed and Abdullah Chaarani. Picture: AAP
Ahmed Mohamed and Abdullah Chaarani. Picture: AAP

The terror trio were co-conspirators of Ibrahim Abbas, the older brother of Hamza, who confessed to wanting to slaughter scores of innocent Victorians as payback for Australia's war on Islamic State.

He planned to stage the attack around Federation Square, with St Paul's Cathedral and Flinders St Station identified as possible attack sites.

Ibrahim pleaded guilty to planning an attack while his three co-offenders denied any involvement before being convicted by a jury.

He was jailed for 24 years, with a 20 year non-parole period.

In their attack the group planned to slaughter people with machetes and detonate bombs strapped to their bodies.

The men purchased chemicals, explosive substances, and other components to make a bomb, bought bladed weapons and conducted reconnaissance in the CBD.

They had practised making bombs with materials bought from Bunnings, Chemist Warehouse and Boating Camping and Fishing.

The group were arrested on December 22, 2016, after months of surveillance by anti-terror police.

Hamza Abbas.
Hamza Abbas.

At the time authorities feared an attack was imminent.

Ibrahim, who told the court of his plan in chilling detail, had urged the group to act by Christmas Day of that year.

"I wanted to make sure that the casualties would be high. The bigger the better," he said.

"The bigger the more terror is achieved, and that's the point."

Ibrahim said he was prepared to die for his belief saying: "The whole point of jihad is martyrdom."

Sentencing Ibrahim last year Justice Tinney said his planned attack would have had catastrophic consequences.

"It would have been, as was your intention, a crime which would shock this country to the core," he said.

Chaarani and Mohamed are already serving 17-year minimum jail terms for firebombing a Melbourne mosque.

shannon.deery@news.com.au