Muslims raise money for suspects' families
By Richard Kerbaj
From: The Australian
A HARDLINE Islamic organisation has helped raise thousands of dollars for the families of Melbourne's alleged terror suspects during a special fundraising event.
More than 300 people, including some family members of the 13 terrorism accused, attended a dinner party held by the fundamentalist Islamic and Information Services Network of Australasia last month, where more than $50,000 was raised through donations and auctions. The accused men are among 22 terror suspects who were arrested during the nation's biggest joint police and ASIO counter-terrorism raids in Sydney and Melbourne between November and April.
The fundraising comes despite revelations the families of the alleged terror cell members from both states were collectively already receiving more than an estimated $1 million a year in taxpayer-funded Centrelink benefits and legal aid.
Under Centrelink rules, the accused men's families are entitled to an increase in their welfare payments by as much as $1700 a year.
Among the alleged terror cell members who have been charged with being members of a terrorist organisation is Abdul Nacer Benbrika.
Mr Benbrika is accused of being the spiritual leader of the young radical Muslims. His wife and seven children will receive almost $50,000 in welfare benefits while he remains behind bars awaiting trial.
Despite the additional funds, the fundraising event at Aurora Receptions in Melbourne's north last month was a success.
It is understood that pictures of the men, who are held at the maximum security Acacia unit in Barwon Prison, southeast of Melbourne, were projected onto a large screen during the function.
The emotional multimedia presentation was played between a series of community-led speeches proclaiming the men's innocence and was instrumental in the appeal's success.
President of the Melbourne-based IISNA Sheik Abu Hamza refused to discuss the details of the fundraising event.
But The Australian
understands that money will be disbursed among the families, with each receiving a weekly payment of $250.
The president of the moderate Islamic Council of Victoria, Malcolm Thomas, gave a keynote speech at the function about the importance of helping community members in need. But this week he said he did not represent ICV at the event and expressed personal views, calling on the audience to support Muslims and non-Muslims in the community.
"My view was that we all have responsibility to our community, to individuals, irrespective of what they've done," Mr Thomas said.
"We have responsibilities as a community to other people."
During his speech, he criticised a terror suspect's relatives who attacked the media outside Melbourne Magistrates Court in November.
Mr Thomas said the attacks were "un-Islamic" and "cost the Muslim community a lot of social capital".
"Some were uncomfortable with what I said and some understood what I was saying," said Mr Thomas, who did not donate any money during the fundraiser.