[JURIST] Thirteen men arrested last year in Australia's largest counter-terrorism raid [JURIST report] pleaded not guilty to the charges against them during a pre-trial hearing Monday. Eighteen suspects were arrested in raids in Sydney and Melbourne and were charged with membership in a terrorist organization and planning a terrorist attack on Australian soil. The remaining five suspects are still awaiting trial. Among the suspects in court Monday was Abdul Nacer Benbrika, also known as Abu Bakr [BBC profile], a radical Islamic cleric from Melbourne who has praised Osama bin Laden and who is accused of being the ringleader of the group.
The arrests were made in November 2005 after a government warning of an imminent terror attack [JURIST report] prompted the Australian Parliament to pass an amendment [JURIST report] to existing anti-terrorism laws expanding state power to allow authorities to prosecute suspects without associating them with a specific terrorist act. Police said the amendment was necessary to accomplish the arrests of several of the suspects. BBC News has more. The Herald Sun has local coverage.