NATION Pair on plane terror charges
TWO men believed to be brothers were last night charged over an alleged plot to bomb a domestic flight out of Sydney.
Khaled Khayat, 49, and Mahmoud Khayat, 27, both from Sydney, were charged by the NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team with two counts of acts done in preparation for, or planning, a terrorist act.
Both will face Parramatta Local Court today to face the charges, which carry a maximum penalty of life in jail.
They are two of the four men arrested in raids across Sydney last Saturday.
Their brother- in- law Khaled Merhi remains in detention being questioned by police under specific provisions of the Commonwealth Crimes Act, which police last night said “recognises that terrorism investigations are inherently complex and that there can be legitimate reasons for extended periods of detention for suspects in such matters”.
Merhi, who lives with his parents at Surry Hills, has not been charged. The fourth man, Khaled Merhi’s brother Abdul Merhi, 50, was released without charge on Tuesday.
Police confirmed they had been searching six homes across Sydney after the raids on homes in Lakemba, Surry Hills, Wiley Park, Bankstown and two homes in Punchbowl.
The charges follow a day of drama during which both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller declared police had “very strong evidence” about the alleged plot by a Sydney terror cell to bomb the plane, believed to have been an Etihad A380.
“We mobilised quickly and from my perspective we stopped what would have been a terrible crime,” Mr Fuller said.
The aviation threat level set by the spy agency ASIO – which was raised last week to “probable” in the wake of intelligence reports about the alleged plot – has been restored to “possible” but security will remain heightened at airports.
His comments came after it was revealed that the plan was to use a sacrificial lamb to carry the bomb hidden in a kitchen meat mincer on board as cabin baggage, unaware he was on a suicide mission.
Mr Turnbull said the plot was “disrupted and contained” and promised delays, which have seen passengers queue out of the doors at Sydney’s airports, should be reduced as the new security measures were “modified”.
Abdul Merhi’s solicitor Moustafa Kheir said he wanted to review “what basis police had to do what they did”.
He said Mr Merhi’s family was in shock and his life had been “turned upside down”.