Australia

Islamic State group recruiter Hamdi Alqudsi 'loves Australia'

Hamdi Alqudsi who made travel arrangements for seven would-be jihadists Image copyright AFP
Image caption Hamdi Alqudsi has broken down in tears while giving evidence at a sentence hearing

A Sydney man who helped seven young men travel from Australia to Syria to join the Islamic State conflict has told a court he is "not a terrorist".

Hamdi Alqudsi, 42, was found guilty of violating Australia's foreign incursion laws for making travel arrangements for a group of would-be jihadists in 2013.

Giving evidence for the first time at a sentence hearing, he expressed regret and said that he loved Australia.

Alqudsi also claimed he thought that IS would help civilians.

He faces a maximum 10 years in jail for seven counts of providing services with the intention of supporting hostile acts.

"As an Australian I should have minded my own business," Alqudsi told the New South Wales Supreme Court.

"I love Australia, I always have."

On Wednesday, Alqudsi admitted for the first time that he knew the seven men he assisted in 2013 planned to take up arms against Syrian government forces.

Tears in the courtroom

He said he should have limited his involvement to taking donations for Syrian civilians through registered charity groups.

Alqudsi broke down in tears while giving evidence, saying he now realises he was breaking the law.

"At the time, I felt it was the right thing to do," he said.

"I am really, really sorry for what I have done."

Two of the seven men Alqudsi helped were killed in Syria. Two others have returned to Australia, another was arrested before he could leave the country, and the fate of two other men is unknown.

Alqudsi said his first impression of the Islamic State group was that they were a force for good.

The prosecutor put it to him that it was obvious the men intended to travel to Syria to fight.

"You knew these men were going to be out in the fields of Syria engaging in warfare," David Staehli SC said.

"Yes, I did," Alqudsi replied.

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