Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Australia, Muslims React Cautiously to Terror Bust ; the Government Claims to Have Thwarted a Terror Attack after the Arrest of 16 Suspects in Sydney and Melbourne

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Australia, Muslims React Cautiously to Terror Bust ; the Government Claims to Have Thwarted a Terror Attack after the Arrest of 16 Suspects in Sydney and Melbourne

Article excerpt

As 16 Muslim men were arrested in pre-dawn raids in Australia's biggest ever antiterror operation, leaders from within the Muslim community appealed for fair trials for the accused, and expressed hope for a break in the clouds cast over the community by recent terror warnings and government pressure.

"We merely ask that these suspects should receive the due process of law and be given the benefit of the doubt. Let the law decide if they are guilty or not," says Keysar Trad, the head of the Islamic Friendship Association, based in Sydney.

The arrests in the major cities of Sydney and Melbourne come at the end of 18 months of investigation by the authorities and just days after Prime Minister John Howard warned that his government had uncovered terror attack plans. After publicizing the threat last week, Mr. Howard urged Parliament to pass tough new antiterror legislation that had been in the works.

The arrested were charged with offenses ranging from being members of a terrorist organization and conspiring to make explosives, allegedly similar to those used in the London bombings in July this year. One of the arrested, Abu Bakr - known for his often inflammatory remarks showing support for Osama Bin Laden - was also charged with directing the work of a terrorist organization. However, the name of this organization remains a mystery.

"There is some suggestion that they might be members of Lashkar- e Tayyaba," says Mr. Trad, referring to a Pakistani militant group active in Kashmir.

Wahid Aly, a member of the Islamic Council of Victoria, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that far from anger at the government, many Muslims are glad that rather than fighting shadows and creating a generalized sense of fear within the community, the government can now focus on some concrete suspects.

Walid Kadous, the co-convener of the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network, decried the way the arrests have unfolded in the media. …

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