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Would-be Syrian fighter glad to be caught

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 15/08/2016 By Genevieve Gannon

A New Zealand man being held in immigration detention in Victoria after he tried to join the conflict in Syria says it was a "blessing" he was stopped from travelling to the Middle East.

Amin Mohamed now wants to help other vulnerable young people at risk of being radicalised, a Melbourne court has been told.

Defence barrister Julian McMahon says 25-year-old Mohamed was brainwashed when he bought a one-way ticket to Turkey, but has since been rehabilitated and shouldn't be dealt with as harshly as those found guilty of terror offences.

"He regards being pulled out of the queue at the airport and the subsequent conviction as a blessing," Mr McMahon told a pre-sentencing hearing on Monday.

Mohamed was last year found guilty in the Victorian Supreme Court of three counts of attempting to enter a foreign state to engage in hostile activities.

He was stopped at Brisbane airport in September 2013 with a one-way ticket to Istanbul, which he told authorities was a stop-over on a trip to Denmark where he was meeting his fiancee.

"He accepts he was brainwashed or radicalised for the relevant period," Mr McMahon told the court.

"There's evidence of an appropriate change in his psychology and attitude in life."

Before his arrest, Mohamed had been recorded discussing travel to Syria with a man named Handi Alqudsi.

Early in September 2013, Alqudsi told Mohamed he had just received a message from overseas about a "big job" involving "1500 brothers" that was coming up.

Crown prosecutor Lesley Taylor QC said Mohamed was not naive about what he was doing.

"He is an intelligent, articulate young man who has been in leadership roles since his teens," she said, arguing that sentencing guidelines for terror offences could be relevant when determining Mohamed's fate.

"The complete act is the preparatory conduct. The legislation is designed to interrupt an act."

But Mr McMahon said intending to engage in hostilities in another country couldn't be "seriously correlated" with wanting to commit mass murder in Australia.

Mohamed used four different phones to communicate with Alqudsi and referred to other travellers as "doctors" and "soccer players".

He called Alqudsi "the coach" and referred to Istanbul as "Isabelle".

The three charges relate to his application for a New Zealand passport, the ticket he booked and the fact he accepted the contact details of a man named Omar.

Justice Lex Lasry will sentence Mohamed at a date to be set.

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