Radical Cleric Who Planned Crown Melbourne Casino Attack to be Released

Posted on: December 11, 2023, 04:09h. 

Last updated on: December 12, 2023, 11:45h.

The convicted leader of an Australian terror cell who plotted with his followers to attack Melbourne’s Crown Casino and other sites could soon be a free man.

Abdul Nacer Benbrika, Abu Bakr, Crown Casino
Abdul Nacer Benbrika, aka Abu Bakr, praised Osama bin Laden and told his followers that killing women, children, and the elderly could sometimes be justified. (Image: Herald Sun)

Tunisian-born Australian citizen Abdul Nacer Benbrika was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2008 for conspiring to strike the Crown Resorts property on the weekend of the Australian F1 Grand Prix. Benbrika’s cell was also planning to target the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Lucas Heights, a nuclear reactor in Sydney.

Benbrika, also known as Abu Bakr, was arrested with 17 others in Melbourne and Sydney in November 2005 and charged with being a member of a terrorist organization, and of planning terrorist attacks on targets within Australia.

Citizenship Restored

When the radical cleric completed his official sentence in November 2020, Australia’s immigration minister, Peter Dutton, revoked his Australian citizenship. He was then put on a “continuing detention order” for a maximum of three years.

Benbrika won an appeal to restore his citizenship after the High Court of Australia determined the law Dutton had used was unconstitutional. Now, with the expiration of Benbrika’s detention order, he is set to be released on December 23.

Senator Michaelia Cash, legal affairs spokeswoman for the opposition Liberal Party, told Melbourne’s Herald Sun that she was perplexed that the government hadn’t applied for a new detention order.

“What now appears certain is that Benbrika will be released into the community with some sort of supervision or none at all – this is unacceptable,” Senator Cash said. “Considering the debacle we continue to see in relation to the detainees the government has released into the community, the Coalition has no confidence the … government can adequately protect Australians from the potential dangers posed by Benbrika and others.”

Who is Abdul Benbrika?

Benbrika trained as an aircraft engineer in his Native Tunisia before becoming an Islamic cleric. He traveled to Australia in May 1989 on a one-month visitor’s permit, according to court documents.

He spent the next six years fighting immigration authorities for the right to stay in the country. In 1992, he married an Australian citizen, with whom he had seven children.

Benbrika once told an immigration review tribunal of his “love of the Australian lifestyle.” But shortly after his arrest, he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that there were “two laws: there is Australian law … there is Islamic law,” while praising Osama bin Laden as a “great man.”

“Under certain circumstances, it was theologically permissible to kill women, children, and the elderly,” prosecutors said he told his followers.

Benbrika’s teachings became increasingly politicized following the U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, after which he formed a splinter group of radicalized followers in Melbourne. Several of his “students” were arrested with him in 2005, including one who had undergone military training in Afghanistan, according to prosecutors.

The group was found to possess chemicals similar to those used in the London bombings that had occurred just months before his arrest, although there was no evidence linking it to any outside group like Al Qaeda.