High Court Rules on Jail Term for Sydney Man Linked to Al Qaeda

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High Court Rules on Jail Term for Sydney Man Linked to Al Qaeda

The High Court has made a ruling on the case of Fayez Hatahet, a Sydney man from Punchbowl in the city's south-west, who was convicted of participating in activities with terrorist groups associated with Al Qaeda in Syria. Hatahet's involvement led to his arrest in April 2020 after multiple trips to Syria in 2012 and 2013 where he joined Jabhat al-Nusra, a militant organization.

Hatahet, holding dual Australian and Jordanian citizenship, justified his initial trips to Syria as an attempt to secure the release of his brother-in-law believed to be held captive by an armed group. However, he later became involved in the conflict in Syria and was sentenced to five years in prison, with a three-year non-parole period, backdated to August 2020. Despite his plea and sentencing, which led to his placement in the Goulburn Supermax prison, Hatahet's lawyers challenged the ruling, arguing the sentence was excessive given the restrictions on parole for terrorism offenses.

The matter was taken to the New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal, where Hatahet's legal team contended that the sentencing judge should have considered the limitations on parole when determining the jail term and suggested a reduction in his imprisonment due to the strict conditions he faced in detention. The Court of Criminal Appeal agreed with this argument and reduced the sentence to four years, prompting a subsequent challenge from Commonwealth prosecutors that reached the High Court. In the High Court's unanimous decision, all five justices rejected the notion that the prospect of early release should influence the initial sentence, emphasizing the legislative intent to restrict parole for terrorism offenders.