Alleged Syrian war recruiter loses Sydney court challenge

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SYDNEY (AP) — A Sydney man accused of recruiting foreign fighters to battle the Syrian regime lost a court challenge on Thursday to the Australian law that he was charged with breaking.

Hamdi Alqudsi, 41, was charged under the Crime (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act 1978 after he allegedly helped seven men go to Syria between June and October in 2013 so they could fight for Jabhat al-Nusra and other al-Qaida affiliates.

Alqudsi is the first person to be charged under the law with recruiting foreign fighters for the five-year-old Syrian conflict. The law was replaced last year with tougher counterterrorism legislation.

The New South Wales state Supreme Court judge on Thursday rejected Alqudsi's application to have the charge dismissed and ruled that he should stand trial.

He had argued that part of the law was unconstitutional because it was only remotely connected to Australia's defense and external affairs powers, but Justice Christine Adamson rejected that and found that the law was constitutional because it concerned Australia's external relations.

Prosecutors previously alleged that telephone intercepts recorded Alqudsi talking to some of the alleged recruits about fighting in Syria, and that he allegedly helped them join terrorist organizations fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Alqudsi's lawyer Zali Burrows has argued that her client was giving only innocuous travel advice.

Alqudsi will return to court on Friday for a pre-trial hearing.

He has pleaded not guilty to the recruitment charge and is to go on trial in September. He faces seven years in jail if convicted.

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