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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Three Sunni Muslim men were convicted on Thursday of engaging in a terror act by burning down a Shiite mosque in the Australian city of Melbourne three years ago.
A Victoria state Supreme Court jury convicted Abdullah Chaarani, Ahmed Mohamed and Hatim Moukhaiber over the firebombing of the Imam Ali Islamic Center on Dec. 11, 2016. No one was injured in the blaze.
Mohamed and Moukhaiber had both denied any involvement. Chaarani conceded that he was there, but argued he had been part of an act of protest, advocacy or dissent, but not terrorism.
Chaarani and Mohamed were also found guilty of attempting to commit a terror act over a failed attempt to burn the mosque down two weeks earlier on Nov. 25.
The three will appear in court for sentencing next week. They each face a potential maximum sentence of life in prison.
During the trial, prosecutor Nicholas Robinson argued Chaarani's involvement was terrorism because the mosque was targeted to intimidate Shiites
The words "Islamic State" were also spray painted on the exterior of the building.
Mohamed and Chaarani had previously been convicted of planning a terrorist attack on central Melbourne locations including the Federation Square restaurant and nightclub precinct, St. Paul's Anglican Cathedral and Flinders Street train station on Christmas Day in 2016.
They were among five men found guilty in November last year after the plot was foiled by police who listened to their plans and watched their reconnaissance at Federation Square. The five have yet to be sentenced on those convictions.
The latest trial heard evidence that after the first failed attempt to destroy the mosque, Mohamed and Chaarani returned with Moukhaiber in December with a 20-liter (5.3-gallon) container of gasoline and two car tires to keep the blaze going.
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