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Jail for man who sent 'martyrs' to die

AAP logoAAP 1/09/2016 Sophie Tarr

He knew little of the bloody Syrian conflict he was sending seven would-be "martyrs" to, and he had no intention of leaving behind his comfortable life in suburban Sydney to join them.

That was a NSW Supreme Court judge's assessment as she sentenced Hamdi Alqudsi on Thursday to at least six years behind bars for arranging for seven men to make their way to the battlefields to fight along notorious Australian terrorist Mohammad Ali Baryalei.

Alqudsi held up his index finger in the dock in the moments after Justice Christine Adamson handed down an eight-year maximum jail sentence.

Two women dressed in floor-length niqabs wept quietly in the public gallery of the Parramatta courtroom.

Other supporters mirrored Alqudsi's gesture and shouted messages of solidarity to the 42-year-old as sheriffs prepared to lead him away.

Though he did not recruit men to travel to Syria, Justice Adamson said Alqudsi had played a pivotal role in advising them how best to reach the frontline and that he did not believe the men would return alive.

"The offender took upon himself the role of 'commander' and 'big brother' to the men, whom he described as 'boys'," she said.

"I accept the Crown's analogy that the offender was the centre of a wheel in which the seven men and Mr Baryalei were the spokes ... The offender expected that each of the men he helped to go to Syria would die there."

But Justice Adamson said she was not satisfied Alqudsi "was doing anything other than pretending" when he quizzed two of his men in Syria about the cost of obtaining an AK47 or M16 there.

"There is no indication that he was willing to sacrifice either his life or his liberty for 'the cause', however he defined it," Justice Adamson said.

She said Alqudsi's appreciation of the political situation in Syria was "naive" and he did not know in advance which armed group his "boys" would be fighting alongside.

The man's trial heard of a cache of tapped phone calls between Alqudsi and men on the Syrian frontline.

In one of these calls, Baryalei wept as he wondered aloud why anyone would want to live in "this rubbish", telling Alqudsi: "I don't want to be here, man, I'm over it."

When Alqudsi passed on his wish that Baryalei would be granted martyrdom, the Islamic State soldier replied: "I hope so, I hope He is pleased with all of us man. Because the way things are going, I don't know what to think anymore."

Alqudsi, a former security guard who stopped working after suffering back and neck injuries as a Woolworths packer in 2010, tearfully told a sentencing hearing last month that he loved Australia and felt immense regret at what he had done.

"I am not persuaded that the offender is either contrite or remorseful, although he is obviously sorry that his actions have resulted in adverse consequences for himself and his family," Justice Adamson said.

"I do not regard his prospects for rehabilitation as good."

Asked outside court whether Alqudsi would appeal his sentence, solicitor Zali Burrows told reporters only that he was looking forward to speaking with his family.

Her client will be eligible for parole in 2022.

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