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Brigitte on trial for Aust terrorist plot -

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Brigitte on trial for Aust terrorist plot

Broadcast: 07/02/2007

Reporter: Rafael Epstein

Terrorist suspect Willie Brigitte who has been accused of plotting a terrorist act on Australian
soil has been put on trial in Paris.


TONY JONES: The trial of a French Muslim convert accused of plotting terrorist attacks in Australia
has begun in Paris. Willie Brigitte was deported from Australia in 2003. Now he's being prosecuted
by French authorities for his alleged activities, both here and in France. From Paris, Europe
correspondent Rafael Epstein.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN, EUROPE CORRESPONDENT, PARIS: In courtroom number 16 at the Palais de Justice we may
learn what Willie Brigitte was doing in Australia. French investigators claim he was planning a
large-scale terrorist action with this man, Faheem Khalid Lodhi, the Pakistani-born architect who
last year became the first man to be convicted under new laws for plotting an attack on Australian
soil. Intelligence analysts say Lodhi was one of many recruited into a terrorist cell by Willie

JEAN CHARLES BRISSARD, INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: He was ready to put in place a cell in Australia and
that - he already had some ideas of targets inside Australia.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Willie Brigitte is also accused of attending a militant Islamic training camp in
Pakistan, where it is claimed he came under the influence of the man who also supervised Faheem
Khalid Lodhi. And the trial may focus on Afghan Northern Alliance leader, Ahmed Shah Masood. Two
days before the September 11 attacks, he was killed by suicide bombers posing as reporters. They
carried false passports, allegedly supplied by Willie Brigitte.

Through his lawyer, Willie Brigitte says he is innocent of all charges. He's been in custody for
more than three years and he is facing the far reaching charge of criminal conspiracy in relation
with a terrorist enterprise.

In Willie Brigitte's old neighbourhood, there's doubt that he's guilty of anything, scepticism that
is fuelled by former intelligence officers here who say there is little evidence against him.

Before he came to Australia, Willie Brigitte prayed at this small mosque in the north east of
Paris. French authorities believe he was part of an al Qaeda sleeper cell, waiting to be activated
by his supposed handlers. Australian authorities believe he played a similar role in Sydney,
helping to plan a large scale attack.

TONY JONES: Rafael Epstein has been covering the court case and joins us now in Paris.

Rafael, presumably Brigitte has been in court.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: He has, and it's pretty interesting to actually get face to face with someone who's
caused so much press coverage and obviously, concern with the authorities here in France and
Australia. He came in a black tracksuit, hooded top, very much looking like that photo people will
have seen in the newspapers and on television - a beard, short dreadlocks and glasses. He was very
quiet and sombre. He came in with handcuffs on. They took them off. He had two armed guards behind
him. They had their pistols holstered and there were other armed guards in the court. It's a big
sort of wood-pannelled courtroom, quite an old grand building, and quite a sombre court hearing.
Basically, the court just read out three hours' worth of evidence gathered, a lot of it the
interrogation that Willie Brigitte had cooperated in earlier on when he was in prison in France.

TONY JONES: What's the thrust of the case against him and are they already talking about the
allegations of what he supposedly did in Australia?

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: They are talking about the evidence of what he did in Australia. There isn't too
much new there. What they are painting him as is a sort of the go-to man for Lashkar-e-Toiba in
France. Lashkar-e-Toiba is the militant group in Pakistan that he trained with, they are closely
affiliated with al Qaeda and they are saying that he did everything from run military-style
training camps in France through to making fake passports for people, fake identity cards, helping
people who might be going through France and while he wasn't given any violent mission in France
itself, he was told to go to Australia and do what he'd been doing in France, which was to awake
agents who'd been sent there and told to wait for the word that he'd been sent to Australia for a
specific purpose and that his contact in Australia was Faheem Lodhi, the architect who was
sentenced by an Australian court last year.

TONY JONES: Very briefly Rafael, he's accused by the French of playing a role in the assassination
of the Northern Alliance leader, Ahmad Shah Masood, just before September 11.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Yeah. What is interesting is in the past he'd only been linked to giving the
assassins passports but today in court it was alleged he gave them explosives, a television camera
they used as a bomb and the passport. So he's obviously been painted as a senior figure in that
plot and obviously, Ahmed Shah Masood later went on to side with the Coalition against the Taliban.
One other interesting detail; it is hard to get any full explanation of this but the court said
that the Australian authorities told France, told French authorities, when Brigitte initially
arrived in Australia in May 2003. Now, that doesn't fit with the controversy that arose after
Brigitte's deportation, when there was some concern that perhaps the Australian authorities hadn't
acted quickly enough on the French authorities. So just is a little detail in court, that perhaps
the Australians told the French as soon as Brigitte came to Australia that he had arrived.

TONY JONES: Right. Much more on that tomorrow. Rafael Epstein, thanks very much.