White judges are too trusting.
A Melbourne pizza maker who sponsored a Jabhat al-Nusra fighter in the Syrian war has been spared a jail term after pleading guilty to terror offences.
Hassan El Sabsabi, a 25-year-old who provided a foreign jihadist with payments totalling nearly $16,000 to fight against the Assad regime, today walked free from the Victorian Supreme Court with a two-year, community corrections order.
The sentencing judge, Justice Lex Lasry, said if not for El Sabsabi’s guilty plea, he would have been sent to jail to three years. As part of his punishment, El Sabsabi is required perform 252 hours of unpaid community work.
The non-custodial sentence is the culmination of a covert, seven month investigation by the Australian Federal Police which involved extensive electronic surveillance of El Sabsabi, his wife and an American jihadist named Abdellah Karram.
Karram, who travelled to Syria to fight with the Al Qa’ida spin-off group prior the establishment of Islamic State, communicated regularly with his sponsor and sent him gruesome pictures from the battlefield.
El Sabsabi made 11 separate payments to Karram between July 2013 and September last year, when he was arrested by federal police. In a recorded conversation with Karram in December 2013, he spoke wistfully of joining the Syrian war himself, killing non-believers and perhaps becoming a martyr.
Counsel for El Sabsabi, Stewart Bayles, told last year’s pre-sentence hearing his client did not hold extremist or anti-Australian beliefs, that he had been misguided by a naive infatuation with Karram and he now realised he had been an idiot.
El Sabsabi pleaded guilty to two counts of funding terrorism, a federal charge which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years jail. The prosecution asked for a lengthy prison sentence to deter others from funding terrorist activities.
Justice Lasry said he was troubled by a letter that El Sabsabi wrote to the court in which he appeared to consider himself victim of circumstance instead of taking full responsibility for his “foolish and potentially very dangerous offending.’’
However, the judge said that in the two years since El Sabsabi’s arrest, it was “acceptably clear’’ that his rehabilitation was well advanced.
“In my opinion it would not only be counter production to you but also to the community to return you to custody because, in all likelihood, it would set back your rehabilitative process,’’ Justice Lasry said.
Where’s the deportation order, Judge?