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Two brothers accused of terrorism offences following the lighting of summer bushfires north of Melbourne have left the Supreme Court through different doors, one into jail and the other a free man.
Epping pair Ari Sherani, 22, and Aran Sherani, 21, embraced in the dock on Wednesday following a month-long trial where they were found not guilty of attempting to engage in a terrorist act.
Epping brothers Aran and Ari Sherani arrive at the Supreme Court.Credit: Simon Schluter
But the younger of the two was led away in handcuffs after a jury found him guilty of acts done in preparation or planning of a terrorist act.
The prosecution had submitted that Aran Sherani was behind the setting of bushfires at Humevale and Kinglake West in 2021 while Ari Sherani filmed him lighting one of the blazes.
Aran Sherani had earlier pleaded guilty to being a member of a terrorist organisation.
There was a brief moment of confusion when security guards seated with the two men in the dock tried to keep Ari Sherani in custody despite him being cleared, saying he had to sign paperwork.
But his defence barrister Lucien Richter objected, with Justice Amanda Fox intervening and ordering he be immediately released.
The 22-year-old laughed and looked at his brother as the discussion occurred.
“No paperwork can keep him in custody. His indictment has been cleared. This is an important part of the process,” Richter said.
“Ari Sherani, you are free to leave the dock,” the judge replied. “It has been a long trial.”
Earlier the court heard Aran Sherani was captured on video standing in bushland at Humevale wearing a face covering on February 18, 2021, where he said: “Islamic State still remains. You think you are safe [in Australia] surrounded by water? Your land is filled with trees and forest. We will burn your cities, burn your families alive, you’ll all taste the fire. Allahu Akbar.”
Aran Sherani outside court.Credit: Simon Schluter
A fire was then lit about 3.20pm on a 26-degree day and within 300 metres of homes.
In a second video played to the jury, Aran Sherani was filmed giving instructions on how to light bushfires to ensure they spread, before trees were set on fire on February 28, 2021. On that day, the temperature was about 27 degrees with the fire coming within 225 metres of nearby homes.
“To the kafir may this fire burn you and your family may you all suffer, may you all die. Now is the time my brothers,” Aran Sherani recorded himself saying.
During a search of the pair’s family home, police uncovered IS propaganda magazines that contained details about forest fires and internet searches about jihad and Sydney’s Lindt cafe siege.
The court heard when police attempted to arrest Aran Sherani in March 2021, he fled the family home on foot before purchasing a knife from a supermarket.
Barrister Patrick Doyle, SC, had argued that while his client lit the bushfires his only intention was to convince a member of IS to help him travel overseas to fight for the Kurdish people.
The matter will return to court at a later date.
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