Three Australians sentenced to decades in jail for firebombing Melbourne mosque

(From left) Ahmed Mohamed, Abdullah Chaarani and Hatim Moukhaiber arriving at the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne, Victoria, on July 24, 2019. PHOTOS: EPA-EFE

CANBERRA (DPA) - Three Sunni Muslim Australians who firebombed a Shi'ite mosque in Melbourne in an Islamic State-inspired attack have been sentenced to more than a decade each in jail.

Abdullah Chaarani, 28, Ahmed Mohamed, 26, and Hatim Moukhaiber, 30, were sentenced on Wednesday in the Victorian Supreme Court for engaging in a terrorist act by setting on fire the Imam Ali Islamic Centre in Fawkner, a northern suburb in Australia's second-largest city, in December 2016. They had been found guilty by a jury in May.

Mohamed and Chaarani were sentenced to 22 years in jail and will be eligible for parole only after 17 years, while Moukhaiber was jailed for 16 years, with possible parole after 12 years, Australian broadcaster ABC said.

Justice Andrew Tinney said at the sentencing that the heinous crime was motivated by hate, intolerance and malevolence.

He said it was "an attack on religious freedom" that was "impossible to excuse".

"Islamic State", also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, was spray-painted on the wall of the mosque before the attack. The mosque was almost completely destroyed in the fire. Mohamed and Chaarani had tried to burn the mosque a month earlier but were successful only in a second attempt with Moukhaiber's help.

Last year, Mohamed and Chaarani were also convicted for planning a thwarted terrorist attack around 2016 Christmas Day, just two weeks after the mosque attack. During the trial, Mohamed and Moukhaiber denied any involvement, while Chaarani admitted taking part in the attack, but said it was not an act of terror but part of a protest "with the intention of advancing... Sunni Islam".

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