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Terror suspect allegedly had meetings with Bin Laden
Updated: 2005-02-11 11:27

A detained Australian terrorist suspect had multiple meetings with Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden before returning home as a "sleeper" agent for the radical Islamic group, prosecutors alleged.

Lawyers for the suspect, Jack Thomas, went before a Melbourne court today to make their third bail for application for their client, who was arrested in November and has since been held in a maximum security prison.

Prosecutors told the court that Thomas, a 31-year-old convert to Islam, met bin Laden on more than one occasion while training at an Al-Qaeda camp in Pakistan.

They alleged that Thomas continued to associate with people linked to Al-Qaeda after the group carried out the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

He was allegedly approached by one Al-Qaeda member on behalf of bin Laden to return home to Australia and act as a "sleeper" for the organisation, the court heard.

Thomas, who at one point officially changed his name to Jihad -- struggle or Holy War in Arabic -- is charged with three offences including receiving money from, and providing support for Al-Qaeda when he was living in Pakistan in 2002 and 2003.

Magistrate Ian Gray said he would consider Thomas' bail application and announce his decision at a later time.

Thomas last applied for bail in December on the grounds that an Australian Federal Police interview that led to the charges against him breached the rules of evidence because it was conducted when Thomas was in custody in Pakistan with no access to a lawyer.

That application and an earlier one were both rejected.

His lawyer, Rob Stary, said before today's hearing that Thomas was increasingly distressed by the conditions of his detention in the maximum security Barwon Prison, where he is in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and has no contact with other inmates.

"He is terribly distressed and I think his mental state is completely fragile," he said.

His mother, Patsy Thomas, said her son's imprisonment was emotionally draining for the whole family.

"Not to be able to touch him and cuddle your child and to not be able to touch and cuddle his children is heartbreaking -- we feel it," she told ABC radio earlier Thursday.

"One hour a month Jack is allowed to have contact with his two little girls," she said.

"The rest of the time he only sees them on the other side of the glass with us (for) one hour a week."

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