Frenchman played 'major' role in terror plot

9th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 8, 2007 (AFP) - A Paris court heard evidence Thursday that French Muslim convert Willie Brigitte played a "major role" in a plot by a Pakistani-born extremist to blow up Sydney's power grid in 2003.

PARIS, Feb 8, 2007 (AFP) - A Paris court heard evidence Thursday that French Muslim convert Willie Brigitte played a "major role" in a plot by a Pakistani-born extremist to blow up Sydney's power grid in 2003.

Brigitte, a 38-year-old from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe who was deported from Australia in October 2003, is on trial in France on charges of "criminal conspiracy in relation with a terrorist enterprise". If convicted he faces 10 years in jail.

Speaking at the end of the second day of hearings, judge Jacqueline Rebeyrotte said French investigators found "reason to believe Willie Brigitte played a major role in the plan to commit an attack in Australia."

A web of connections linking Brigitte to convicted Islamic extremists in Australia, Britain and the United States led investigators to believe that he "considerably played down his role" in the plot, she said.

The investigators led by France's top anti-terrorism judge, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, also said they were convinced that Brigitte's "mission" was piloted by the Pakistani radical group Lashkar e-Taiba.

Investigators tracked a flurry of phone calls in the days before he left for Australia, between him and two of the group's operatives: Sajid Mir in Pakistan and Shazad Ashraf, who has been arrested in Britain on terrorism charges.

In a recorded phone conversation with another Lashkar e-Taiba leader, Mir is said to have asked "How is our French connection project?" in reference to Brigitte, the judge said.

On his arrival in Australia, the court heard, he was taken in by Faheem Khalid Lodhi, a Pakistani-Australian architect sentenced to 20 years in jail in 2006 for planning an attack on the Sydney electricity grid.Lodhi found him an appartment in the Sydney suburbs, supplied him with a telephone under a false name and -- some evidence suggests -- helped him meet his future wife, an Australian Muslim convert and former army signaller named Melanie Brown.

The judge quoted the ruling from Lodhi's Australian trial, which said it was established "beyond reasonable doubt" that the two men's "relationship was not innocent".

Lodhi started purchasing ingredients for explosives and gathering maps and images of sensitive military sites in the months after Brigitte's arrival, according to French investigators.

The judge also quoted Brigitte's Australian wife Brown, who was questioned by French officials when she tried to visit him in jail, as saying she had suspected he was involved in illegal activities.

She allegedly described his behaviour as shifty and suspecious, said he questioned her endlessly about her work in army transmissions and encryption, and held secret regular secret meetings at their home.

She quoted him as saying "non-believers should die" and professing his hatred for Americans and Jews.

Following his arrest Brigitte allegedly told investigators that he had discovered Lodhi was planning an attack plan, but that his preparations were still at an extremely early stage.

He said he did not know Lohdi's target, but said that military bases and the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in Sydney would be obvious choices.

Brigitte converted to Islam in 1998 and is alleged to have drifted quickly into radicalism, running French training camps to toughen up would-be Islamist fighters, and leaving for Pakistan for weapons and explosives training in 2001.

He protested his innocence at the start of the trial, but has refused to speak since, saying he "has lost all hope of being understood".

"They are painting him as a monster," his lawyer Harry Durimel told reporters in English on Tuesday. "This is all a scene to prepare for the final act, tomorrow, of the death of Willie Brigitte."

"Tommorrow, we will put everything back on the table and you will get a complete picture," added his second lawyer, Jean-Claude Durimel, ahead of the final day of the trial.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, Terrorism, Australia

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