Australian terror case judge: Islam not on trial

The judge in a trial of five Muslim men accused of plotting a terrorist attack in Australia cautioned jurors Tuesday that Islam was not on trial and urged them to put aside any bias. Prosecutors have said the suspects were devotees of a radical cleric sympathetic to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, and that they made a pact to launch a terrorist attack because they felt their religion was under threat. The men have pleaded not guilty. New South Wales state Supreme Court judge Justice Anthony Whealy asked the 15 jurors to put aside any prejudice, noting that the public has been bombarded with media coverage of radical Islam and its links to terrorism in the last few years. "You must be strict to bring to bear absolute impartiality," Whealy told them as the trial opened Tuesday. "It would be wrong for you to assume ... the guilt or innocence of the accused simply because of your views on the way the Muslim lifestyle is dealt with in the media." "It's an obvious truism for me to tell you that the Muslim religion is not on trial here," he said.