Omar Succarieh jailed over foreign incursion offences

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Queensland man Omar Succarieh has been sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail on four counts of funding and recruiting people to engage in armed hostilities in Syria.

The 33-year-old's case in the Supreme Court was due to begin this week, but he was instead sentenced after a plea deal with the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions which saw the original charges under anti-terrorism laws dropped.

The Sunni Muslim Australian of Lebanese descent pleaded guilty to the four charges under the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act 1978 last week.

“There is no suggestion you supported or encouraged any terrorist activating in Australia,” Justice Rosalyn Atkinson said, noting he had pleaded guilty to the new charges immediately and shown remorse and contrition.

Succarieh has already spent 784 days in pre-sentence custody, including 90 days in solitary confinement, which will count towards his sentence.

He will be eligible for parole in September next year.

Each charge carried a maximum sentence of 10 years prison.

Succarieh will serve his sentences concurrently.

“A number of people were harmed by the offences, people within the Australian community, you’ve been harmed and your family has certainly been harmed,” Justice Atkinson said.

“The Muslim community has been harmed by you because of the fear it might engender in people that you represent the Muslim community, which you most certainly don’t. 

“You’ve done harm to the Australian community as whole, certainly damaged the social cohesion of the community which is a tolerant multicultural community.” 

He was arrested in September 2014 when the Australian Federal Police raided his Islamic bookshop and other premises after a investigation into the alleged death of his brother in Syria during a car bombing.

Succarieh was also convicted for possession of steroids found during the raid on his bookshop but no prison sentence was imposed relating to that charge.

Justice Atkinson said the maximum penalty for the steroid possession under the Queensland Drugs Misuse Act was 15 years jail. 

In its summary of the facts, the prosecution stated Succarieh, “supported the overthrow of the Assad regime through armed hostilities and the establishment in its place of a state governed by Islamic law”.

“The defendant believed that he, and other Muslims, had a religious duty to fight against the those who sought to oppress Muslims and this provided part of the motivation for the defendant’s offending.”

Two charges related to providing his brother, Abraham Succarieh, in early 2014, with US$43,400 (A$57,000) for “supporting or promoting the commission of an offence under section 6 of the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act 1978 namely the engagement by those persons in hostile activities in the foreign state of Syria, in particular in engaging in armed hostilities in Syria”.

The summary of facts said in intercepted phone conversations, Succarieh was told by his by his brother Abraham the money would be divided between “four people that you know… It’s me, struggle, saiful, Bilal, that’s four.”

Succarieh pleaded guilty to another two charges of “commissioning of an offence under section six of the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act 1978 namely facilitating the arrangements for the safe passage” of another Queensland-based man to enter Syria to “engage in hostile activities”, early in 2014.

During yesterday’s hearing, Justice Atkinson suppressed the Albanian-born Sunni Muslim man's name, known as ‘G’, who also received A$7,700 from Succarieh for travel to Syria.

In the summary of facts, the prosecution said Succarieh, “discussed and made arrangements with Abraham Succarieh for ‘G’ to join his group of fellow Australian Muslims”.

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