Man Tried for Attempt to Blow Up Israeli Embassy in Canberra

A British-born Muslim convert was recruited by Al-Qaida for a plan to blow up the Israeli embassy in Canberra with a truck bomb, prosecutors said Monday on the opening day of the man's trial.

Jack Roche, 50, was told by senior officials in Osama bin Laden's terror network to form a terror cell in Australia to carry out the plot, prosecutor Ron Davies told Perth District Court. The bombing was never carried out.

Roche has pleaded innocent to one charge of conspiring to damage the Israeli embassy by means of explosives, and as a consequence harm diplomatic staff. He faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in convicted.

Prosecutors told the jury Roche traveled to Afghanistan to meet with senior figures from the terrorist organization - including bin Laden - in March 2000.

Davies said that Roche had several meetings with one of bin Laden's deputies, identified in court documents as Abu Haifs, and had one meeting with bin Laden himself in which the plan to bomb the embassy was forged.

It was not immediately clear if the court papers were referring to Abu Hafs al-Masri, the alias of Mohammad Atef, a top lieutenant of bin Laden who was killed in a U.S. air strike in Afghanistan in 2001.

In the indictment papers, Roche reportedly told Australian Federal Police that the man identified as Abu Haifs was bin Laden's second in command.

Roche trained with explosives for 10 days at an Al-Qaida camp 15 kilometers from Kandahar, Afghanistan, before returning to Australia and beginning surveillance operations of the Israeli diplomatic building in Canberra, as well as the Israeli consulate in Sydney, Davies said.

He also began recruiting people to take part in the plot and checked the availability of explosives, the court heard.

Raids on Roche's house in Perth recovered video recordings, still photographs and notes made during the surveillance, the court was told.

Davies quoted Roche's comments in a newspaper interview before his arrest in November 2002, in which he was asked about targeting the Israeli embassy.

"He said he had no qualms about the Israeli people around the embassy... in his words, not mine, they were fair game," Davies said.

Roche, who is an Australian citizen, converted to Islam more than 10 years ago.