Khawaja’s brother in fake terror plot
Usman Khawaja has requested privacy for himself and his family after his brother Arsalan was charged by police and refused bail over a fake terror plot to kill senior Australian politicians, allegedly concocted as part of a dispute with another man over a woman.
News of Arsalan Khawaja’s arrest and charges broke on Tuesday morning as Usman Khawaja was batting in the nets ahead of Australia’s opening Test match of the home summer against India at Adelaide Oval. After training he spoke briefly from a prepared statement.
“This is a matter for the police to deal with,” Khawaja said in Adelaide. “Out of respect for the process it’d be inappropriate for me to be making any further comment. I just ask for you to please respect my privacy and my family’s privacy during this time.”
Mitchell Marsh, the Australian vice-captain, joined Khawaja in declining to speak about the matter. “We only found out at training,” he said, “so I think it’d be pretty inappropriate for me to comment at the moment.”
Arsalan Khawaja, 39, was arrested by police in Sydney’s west, and charged with attempting to pervert justice, and forgery, by making a false document. He was due to appear in court later on Tuesday afternoon.
The charges relate to the mistaken arrest in August of a colleague, Mohamed Kamer Nilar Nizamdeen, a PhD student working at the University of NSW. Nizamdeen was arrested and placed in solitary confinement in Goulburn Supermax prison for four weeks after the discovery of a notebook on a UNSW campus that purportedly belonged to him, which detailed plans to make attacks on Sydney landmarks and to kill the former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and his former deputy Julie Bishop.
However Nizamdeen, 25, was released without charge in October, after it was demonstrated that the handwriting in the notebook did not belong to him. Police have now arrested Arsalan Khawaja, and will allege that the creation of the notebook was related to a “personal grievance” between him and Nizamdeen over a woman.
“We believe this was planned and it was calculated,” Assistant commissioner Mick Willing, of the NSW Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Command, said. “We regret the circumstances which led to [Nizamdeen] being charged and the time he subsequently spent in custody. We feel very sorry for him and what has happened to him…[but] we had to act early at the time, given the threats contained in that notebook.”
Police have paid Nizamdeen’s legal costs, though whether there will be further compensation is not yet clear. Assistant commissioner Willing said there was no ongoing threat to the community.