‘I was wrong’: Terrorist’s letter from jail
Australia's first convicted terrorist has disavowed his previously deeply held extremist views and admits he misunderstood his religion as he appeals against a decision to deny him parole.
Faheem Khalid Lodhi confessed to breaking an "unspoken agreement" with the community in a handwritten letter to the Attorney-General, who his lawyers say made an "unreasonable decision" to reject his latest bid for release.
Lodhi has served 16 of his 20-year sentence after being convicted in 2006 of a plot targeting the nation's energy grid and military bases under federal terrorism laws passed three years earlier.
The Pakistan-born former Lakemba architect's 15-year non-parole period has now expired.
He listened on from Wellington Correctional Centre as excerpts of his letter were read out to the Federal Court by his barrister Ragni Mathur on Wednesday.
"I was completely wrong," the court heard he wrote.
"I misunderstood my responsibilities as an Australian citizen and as a Muslim.
"I misunderstood my religion completely. Even though there is no excuse … I only ask for forgiveness from the Australian community."
He also said ne now realised Islam did not allow followers to "take the law of the land into our own hands".
Ms Mathur told Justice Robert Bromwich her client had shown "exceptional circumstances", justifying his release on parole.
He had become a "model prisoner" during his years in jail, progressing from a high-risk inmate of Goulburn Supermax to now a well-liked inhabitant of the minimum security near Dubbo, she said.
The court heard Lodhi had disavowed his extremist beliefs since at least May 2019, at the completion of the Equips program, had distanced himself from other extremists behind bars and now showed only a "moderate level of religious commitment".
Ms Mathur said Attorney-General Christian Porter did not give proper weight to a wealth of evidence in favour of Lodhi's parole, including prison and psychological reports detailing an "unbelievable shift in thinking" and rehabilitation.
"He has now admitted his guilt, he no longer maintains his innocence," she said.
"He has in fact been able to face the pathway that led him to offending and the erroneous path he took."
Trent Glover, acting for the Attorney-General, said Mr Porter used his discretional freedom to make a decision based on a fair assessment of all reports before him, including those from Corrective Services NSW, the Australian Federal Police and the Joint Counter Terrorism Team.
Mr Glover said one report stated Lodhi's years in prison might leave him "unable to keep up with changes in the outside world", meaning a staged release would be preferable.
"Viewed objectively the crimes Mr Lodhi was convicted of were among the most serious known to Commonwealth law," he said.
"That is not hyperbole, Your Honour."
He said the claimed change of Lodhi's mental state and understanding of religion was only "one aspect of the offending".
Justice Bromwich has reserved his decision.
Mr Lodhi's sentence expires in April 2024.
Originally published as 'I was wrong': Terrorist's letter from jail