Australian jurors warned against Muslim prejudice

An Australian judge told jurors on Wednesday not to let prejudices cloud their judgment when deciding whether 12 Australian Muslims were a terrorist gang and guilty of planning an attack in Melbourne.

Australia's biggest terrorism trial, which has run since February, has heard that the 12 men planned "violent jihad" in Australia in 2005 to force it to withdraw its troops from Iraq. The prosecutor has said the group planned to attack a championship football match in Melbourne in 2005 attended by 97,000 fans. No attack took place. In issuing final directions to the jury before they retire to consider a verdict, Judge Bernard Bongiorno said jurors must base their verdict solely on the evidence before the court, reported local media. "There has been a lot of talk in this trial about anti-Muslim sentiment and anti-Muslim feeling in the community. Prejudice, sympathy and such things have no part in a criminal trial," Bongiorno told the jurors. The judge is expected to take three days to direct the jury. The group's spirtual leader Abdul Nacer Benbrika, 47, and the 11 other men have pleaded not guilty to the terrorism charges, including knowingly being a member of a terrorist organization. Melbourne Reuters