Monday, August 08, 2005

Article - I am Osama: court told of terror threats (Sydney Morning Herald)

A reality TV show producer claimed he was Osama bin Laden and warned of follow up terror attacks on Australians, a court heard today.

Charles Gant, 42, of the Gold Coast, was accused of making phone calls to the Australian High Commission in Singapore six days after the Jakarta embassy bombing.

He was also accused of making "disturbing" calls to several media companies, claiming to be from al-Qaeda and threatening to kill Australians, a Gold Coast court was told today.

Egyptian-born Gant was arrested at 8pm (AEST) yesterday in his Labrador apartment by members of the Brisbane-based joint counter terrorism team of the Australian Federal Police.

The self-proclaimed creator and star of a proposed reality television show dating game called Fantasy Island arrived at the Southport Magistrates Court in handcuffs wearing a blue polo shirt and jeans.

He faced six charges under the Commonwealth Crime Act with intentionally using a carriage service to menace or harass.

Crown prosecutor Anthony Gett said while the charges carried a maximum 12 month prison term, in the present climate the allegations were disturbing to the public interest.

Mr Gett said the calls were made from South Australia using seven different sim cards, but Australian Federal Police could link the calls to a unique serial number in Gant's mobile phone.

Media Monitors received the first of four calls made on September 12.

"The God of Islam, I am al-Qaeda," the caller said.

"You Westerners know what you've done and you will pay for your sins.

"The attack in Jakarta is just the first, more will follow in Singapore and Malaysia."

Similar calls were made to the offices of Sky News, the Age newspaper and Fairfax Newspapers.

"Listen to me you are all Australian pigs and you will die," Gant allegedly told a telephone receptionist at Fairfax Newspapers.

"In the name of Allah see what happens in Singapore."

Mr Gett said two calls were made on September 15 to the Australian High Commission in Singapore.

In one call Gant allegedly identified himself as Osama bin Laden and warned that Australian offices in Singapore and Malaysia were targets.

"The bomb that happened in Jakarta is going to happen in Malaysia and Singapore, he said.

"I called to warn you of more attacks on Australian consulates in Malaysia and Singapore."

Gant's lawyer Jason Buckland said the charges were based on circumstantial evidence and would be vigorously defended.

He said Gant had publicity commitments for his television show and his profile made him unlikely to be able to hide.

"I am very confident this defendant is going to be watched like a hawk by the commonwealth law enforcement agencies," he added.

Bail was denied and Gant was remanded in custody to appear during Commonwealth Court sittings in Brisbane on October 8.

Outside court Gant's elderly mother, Marie Dubois, pleaded her son's innocence.

"He's a good boy, he's never done anything wrong, he's not terrorist," she said.