Jack Roche 298 88.
(photo credit: )
A Muslim convert who said Osama bin Laden ordered him to set up a terrorist cell in Australia and who plotted to blow up the Israeli embassy in the capital was released on parole Thursday after serving half of a nine-year sentence.
British-born Jack Roche walked out of the maximum-security Casuarina Prison in Western Australia State and stepped into a taxi that took him to his home in suburban Perth, the state capital, trailed by a throng of news crews.
"I'm glad to be out," Roche said, in brief responses to reporters' questions.
Roche, sporting a long beard, replied "no" when asked if he was still in contact with terrorists, and queried if he was going to stay out of trouble, he said: "Oh, most definitely."
Roche, 53, pleaded guilty to conspiring in a plan to use a truck bomb against the Israeli embassy in Canberra he said was hatched by Osama bin Laden and senior terrorist operatives during a visit he made to Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2000.
The plot was never carried out.
Roche had faced up to 25 years in prison but was sentenced to nine after agreeing to tell officials about his involvement with al-Qaida and its Southeast Asian offshoot, Jemaah Islamiyah.
He was sentenced in May 2004, but became eligible for parole now because time served since his arrest in 2002 was counted as part of the sentence.
Under his parole conditions, Roche will have to report regularly to the Australian federal police, which will also monitor his phone and Internet use.
Defense lawyer Hylton Quail urged the public to leave Roche in peace, telling Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio his client "just wants to live a quiet life."
Originally from Hull in northern England, Roche at first denied being involved in the embassy bomb plot, but changed his plea just 10 days into his 2004 trial.
He told the court he traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan in early 2000, where he met with bin Laden and several senior al-Qaida operatives, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, one of the alleged architects of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
Roche said bin Laden ordered him to set up a terror cell in Australia to target Israeli interests.
When he returned to Australia, Roche said he had doubts about the plan, but was afraid members of al-Qaida or Jemaah Islamiyah would find him and kill him if he didn't carry out the attack.
During his trial, Roche claimed to have entered the world of international terrorism through Australian contacts after he converted to Islam to overcome alcohol addiction, and he said he quickly fell out of his depth.
"I was in a situation and I couldn't stop it," Roche testified at the time. "You just don't walk away from these kinds of people."