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Legal Aid says no to funding mosque-bombing terror trio’s appeals

The three men want to challenge their convictions, but the Court of Appeal heard on Friday that Victoria Legal Aid had refused to fund their appeals. Their lawyers have asked that that decision be reviewed.

The appeal hearings are listed for next week, so Court of Appeal Justice Phillip Priest had defence lawyers and a Legal Aid lawyer appear on Friday, when he described the uncertainty as “wholly unsatisfactory”.

Iman Ali Islamic Centre in Fawkner was destroyed by fire.

Iman Ali Islamic Centre in Fawkner was destroyed by fire.Credit:Justin McManus

The judges scheduled to hear the appeals, he said, had done a lot of preparatory work.

“To say the least it would be lamentable if that time were to go to waste if the matters were unable to proceed,” Justice Priest said.

He told the defence lawyers to ensure they lodged paperwork asking Legal Aid to review its decision, and urged Legal Aid to finalise its decision and report back on Monday.

The lawyer for Legal Aid did not reveal the reasoning for the decision to not fund the appeals but said the organisation’s timing had “come down to the wire”.

But Justice Priest told her to convey his “extreme displeasure” back to Legal Aid.

“The court is extremely displeased. We have invested a great deal of time and effort ahead of hearings next week,” he said.

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Felicity Gerry, QC, for Moukhaiber, said the decision to not fund the appeals was remarkable given the challenge had merit and was important, albeit with legal complexities.

Justice Priest said unless Legal Aid reconsidered its position, the Court of Appeal could have the men represent themselves, ask their lawyers to work pro bono, or adjourn the case. None of those options was satisfactory, he said.

Ibrahaim Abbas, also jailed for terror offences, will have his appeal heard next week after securing Legal Aid funding. But he is challenging the length of his prison sentence.

Abbas was jailed for 24 years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to plan a terror attack and was considered the ringleader of the group who intended to attack people at Federation Square and other Melbourne landmarks at Christmas 2016.

Mohamed, Chaarani and Abbas’ brother, Hamza, were found guilty of the conspiracy charge over the plan to attack Federation Square.

Hamza Abbas was jailed for at least 16 years.

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