A terror plotter has been depicted by his lawyer as “a simple soul” who made a mistake getting involved in a plan to gun down people in Melbourne and lackedcommitment to his cause.
Brothers Samed and Ertunc Eriklioglu and friend Hanifi Halis conspired in November 2018 and began preparations to launch a terror attack in the name of radical Islam, paying a $450 deposit for a .22 semi-automatic assault rifle.
Samed Eriklioglu after his arrest on November 20, 2018.Credit:Nine News
The County Court has heard the trio drew inspiration from the Bourke Street attack on November 9 of that year, when Hassan Khalif Shire Ali stabbed and killed restaurateur Sisto Malaspina and injured two others. Shire Ali was fatally shot by police.
The Eriklioglu brothers and Halis never got their hands on the rifle and asked to have their deposit returned but were arrested in raids across Melbourne’s northern suburbs on November 20, 2018, They have been in custody ever since.
Ertunc, 33, Samed, 28, and Halis, 23, have each pleaded guilty to conspiring together to do acts in preparation for, or planning, a terrorist act, an offence which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Lawyers for the three men have told a plea hearing this week their case was different to most other terror plotters and offenders, as the brothers and Halis cooled on their plan before their arrests and asked for the gun deposit to be returned.
Ertunc Eriklioglu after his arrest on November 20, 2018.Credit:Justin McManus
On Thursday, Patrick Tehan, QC, said his client, Samed, was a “simple” man whose naivety was highlighted in his interview with police when he admitted the trio had lied that they wanted the rifle for hunting and confirmed they had planned to shoot people. But Samed was also worried what would happen if the men were caught with the weapon when they didn’t hold gun licences.
“When you are dealing with a man as simple as Samed it’s hard to say [to police], ‘That’s a lie, that’s a lie.’ He’s a simple man struggling with how he got caught,” Mr Tehan told judge Michael O’Connell on Thursday.
Samed had told police he knew it was wrong to kill, Mr Tehan said, and during the interview he had realised “he made an awful mistake by getting involved in this thing”.
Hanifi Halis.Credit:Nine News
“There is confusion, naivety and a lack of commitment by a man who is a simple soul,” the barrister said.
Mr Tehan and John Kelly, SC, for Ertunc Eriklioglu, said the conspiracy the brothers and Halis were part of was short-lived and over before their arrests. Mr Kelly said the terror plot was “never likely to advance beyond the discussions in [Ertunc’s] garage”.
Ertunc got cold feet and “didn’t have the bottle” to carry out a terror attack, his lawyer said, just as he had never acted on a previously stated intention to travel to Syria to fight.
“He was all mouth, no trousers,” Mr Kelly said.
The brothers’ lawyers said the pair were remorseful and apologetic, had renounced their beliefs in radical Islamism and planned to take part in deradicalisation programs.
But prosecutor Darren Renton said there was no evidence beyond a guilty plea that the men had recanted their views.
Mr Renton said the trio had to be punished and their actions denounced, and also called on Judge O’Connell to consider community protection and deterring others from similar offending.
“The ultimate [intended] act was the death of multiple innocent civilians,” he said.
The hearing continues on Friday.
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