Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Early release for bombmaker Willie Brigitte

AUSTRALIA'S most notorious terrorist Willie Brigitte will be free from jail next year, having served less than half his sentence for conspiring to blow up the nation's only nuclear reactor and the power grid.

Caribbean-born Muslim convert Brigitte made headlines in 2007 when he was sentenced in France, following his arrest in Sydney, to a maximum nine years in jail for joining an al-Qaeda-backed Pakistani terror cell out to bomb Lucas Heights nuclear plant, the national electricity grid and/or a military base.

But The Daily Telegraph can reveal that the French Justice Ministry is considering releasing the 41-year-old on an early release good behaviour plan - possibly in the new year.

He is expected to immediately leave France for the Middle East, with Australia definitely off his itinerary.

Authorities close to his case in Paris said the decision would no doubt cause some diplomatic ructions in Australia but that the judiciary was a separate arm of the state.

"He will be free next year, it was nine years but with good behaviour," Mr Durimel said.

"Of course he is happy. He had no problem in prison, he had good behaviour and when people are of good behaviour they may leave early."

Mr Durimel visited Brigitte in his maximum security cell in a complex outside Paris in the past couple of months to break the news.

"He is very angry because he thinks that the Australian authorities pursued him for a political purpose. He always said he was not a terrorist and that the file was empty but for him it was a political decision and not a judicial decision," Mr Durimel said.

Brigitte was born on the Caribbean island of Guadaloupe, a French territory, to affluent parents. He joined the navy in 1989 but quit four years later and moved to Paris.

There he embraced a radical form of Islam and began associating with members of Algeria's Islamist extremist Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat. He ran survival training lessons in the forests outside Paris for those wishing to fight for the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Twice divorced, he moved to Pakistan in 2001 following the September 11 bombings. It was there he began to train in earnest for jihad with other foreigners at a base run by the al-Qaeda-backed Lashkar-e-Toiba, as they all awaited for their instructions to attack the West.

He later moved back to Paris but in May 2003 was given money and instructions to move to Sydney and make contact with an established terror cell and await further instructions. Ten days after he arrived in Sydney he married his third wife, unsuspecting army reservist and recent Muslim convert Melanie Brown.

She said she only became suspicious of her husband when he continuously questioned her about her time as a signaller in East Timor, the military equipment she used and her knowledge of army bases. She later sought to downplay the admission.

He moved about in Lakemba in Sydney's southwest, with authorities oblivious to his background or intent. He worked at a takeaway shop and attended a local mosque.

Then he made contact with Sydney architect Faheem Khalid Lodhi. The Pakistan-born architect was central to the plot to bomb a major icon such as the nuclear plant, Pine Gap spy base in central Australia, the national electricity grid or Holsworthy barracks.

The plot was in its infancy when the French authorities discovered Brigitte had travelled to Australia and requested from the Australian Embassy any details of his travel. The request was initially ignored so the French sent ASIO a message, but it was a public holiday and the fax for urgent assistance was left on a machine in Canberra. About 10 days later Brigitte was arrested on immigration irregularities and was detained - and his full background revealed.

Brigitte was deported in October and during interrogation said he was trained as a bombmaker and dispatched to cause death and destruction.

The Australian

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