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Adelaide woman who pledged allegiance to Islamic State sentenced

ABC.au
Wednesday April 17, 2019
By Candice Prosser


Zainab Abdirahman-Khalif was convicted of knowingly being a member of a terrorist organisation.SUPPLIED

An Adelaide woman convicted of being a member of Islamic State (IS) has been sentenced to three years in jail, but with time already served will be eligible to apply for parole in August.

Zainab Abdirahman-Khalif, 24, was found guilty of being a member of a terrorist organisation after a trial in the South Australian Supreme Court last year.

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She was detained at Adelaide Airport in July 2016 trying to board a plane to Turkey with just hand luggage and $180, but released without charge.

In May 2017, she was again arrested and charged by Australian Federal Police with "knowingly being a member of a terrorist organisation".

During a three-week trial, the court heard the former student had pledged allegiance to IS and had been communicating online with young female members of the terrorist organisation.

The jury was told that 378 audio files associated with IS were found on her phone, along with 125 videos from an IS media organisation, 62 of which contained extremist material including vision of buildings being blown up, captives being executed and bodies on the ground.

The court also heard Abdirahman-Khalif lived in refugee camps in Kenya until she was 14 years old and moved to Australia with her family, who are of Somalian origin, in 2009.

Justice David Peek imposed a non-parole period of two years and three months, backdated to May 2017 when she was taken into custody.

Judge rejects several defence claims

During his lengthy sentencing remarks, Justice Peek repeatedly emphasised that Abdirahman-Khalif had not been accused or convicted of having any involvement in carrying out or planning terrorist acts.

"I find that you were convicted on the basis of your taking of steps to become a member of Islamic State, rather than on a more serious basis of being positively involved in performing violent acts of terrorism or having an intention to do so," he said.

"You are to be sentenced on that lesser basis."

Justice Peek rejected the young woman's claim that her attempt to travel to Turkey on a one-way ticket in July 2016 was a "last minute decision to go on an innocent holiday".

The 24-year-old woman was found guilty in South Australia's Supreme Court last year. (Gary Rivett: ABC News)

He also rejected her claim that she had no involvement in downloading hundreds of files associated with IS, including graphic videos of beheadings which were found on her phone.

"While you did not give evidence at trial, it appears that you instructed counsel to contend on your behalf that much of the material found in your possession came to be there without your knowledge of their contents," Justice Peek said.

"These arguments were both weak and disingenuous and I reject them."

Justice Peek said Abdirahman-Khalif displayed "no contrition whatsoever" and had continued communicating online with young female members of IS who later carried out a terrorist act in Mombasa, Kenya in September 2016.

"Someone who had merely been curious about, or flirting with IS, would have taken the various police actions of questioning, detaining, interrogating, arresting, searching luggage and so on as a salutary warning to cease any contact with IS," he said.

"However you completely ignored that warning. Within eight minutes of having your phone returned by police you were in communication with one of the Mombasa group and thereafter you continued to be in regular communication with them."

Abdirahman-Khalif 'radicalised'

Justice Peek found that Abdirahman-Khalif, who was aged just 20 and 21 at the time of the offending, had been radicalised.

"I find it to be established that during the relevant period you positively held extremist jihadist and Islamic State views in line with that propaganda," Justice Peek said.

"The depth and extent of your radicalisation was substantial and was sufficient to drive you to attempt to emigrate to the caliphate.

"However, it is important to note that it is not suggested that you advocated extremist views or published extremist material to the public."

Justice Peek said Abdirahman-Khalif's childhood years spent in refugee camps had understandably affected her mental state.

"During those 14 long years you had little to turn to except your religion and I consider that, as is understandable, you became both obsessive about religious matters and predisposed to the influence of extremist religious propaganda," he said.

Justice Peek said it was important to deter "other members of the public who might be seduced by skilful propaganda of the type generated by IS".

The court heard the prosecution could make an application for a continuing detention order.

Abdirahman-Khalif has already lodged an appeal against her conviction.



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