Willie Brigitte, a jihadist imprisoned for his role in a plot to blow up an Australian nuclear reactor, may be released from jail next year - less than halfway through a nine-year sentence - the London Daily Telegraph reports.
Brigitte, a French national, trained at a Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT) camp in 2001 and 2002. Before that he ran a camp near Paris offering survival training for jihadists wishing to fight for the Taliban in Afghanistan.
In 2007, Brigitte was sentenced to nine years in prison by a French court for participating in a plot that included bombing the Lucas Heights nuclear plant in Sydney, the Australian national electricity grid and/or a military base. With credit for good behavior in prison and three years spent in jail awaiting trial, Brigitte could be set free next year by the French Justice Ministry.
Attorney Jean Claude Durimel said he recently visited Brigitte to give him the news. He says his client remains "very angry" because Brigitte believes he "was not a terrorist" and was prosecuted for political reasons.
In a new book, former French magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguiere, who specialized in investigating Al Qaeda and terrorist activity in Pakistan, makes a powerful case to the contrary, showing that Brigitte was extensively involved in terrorism. Bruguiere, who currently serves as the European Union's representative to Washington dealing with terror-financing issues, writes that the Brigitte case illustrates the role of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in supporting terrorism.
In a review of the book, which thus far is only published in France, the Los Angeles Times noted that after September 11, Al Qaeda operatives enabled Brigitte to travel to Pakistan to train with hundreds of Westerners and Arabs and several thousand Afghans and Pakistanis in Punjab. The training was conducted at a camp run jointly by LeT and Pakistani security forces, which supplied arms and instructors.
CIA officers made four inspections of the camp accompanied by Pakistani officials. They were part of an agreement in which Pakistan promised to stop foreign jihadists from training with LeT. But the foreign recruits were alerted beforehand and they evacuated the camps before the CIA arrived.
Brigitte testified that his military handler was a Pakistani military officer identified as "Sajid," who dispatched him to Australia to join a terror cell plotting to bomb the nuclear facility and other targets. (Sajid also sent militants to Britain and Virginia. Some of the latter - Brigitte's fellow trainees - were part of a group called "paintball jihadis" who were convicted and sentenced to long federal prison terms for terrorist activities.)
In May 2003, Brigitte traveled to Sydney and made contact with Faheem Lodhi, who in 2006 was sentenced to 20 years in Australia for plotting a terrorist attack and gathering information on the nuclear facility and the power grid. Another key contact for Brigitte in Australia was Abdul Hasan, who provided him with safehouses.
The plot was at an early stage "when French authorities realized that Brigitte had traveled to Australia and requested from the Australian Embassy any details of his travel. The request was ignored so the French sent ASIO [the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation] a message, but it was a public holiday and the fax for urgent assistance was left on a machine in Canberra," the Australian news website News.com.au reported. Brigitte was eventually arrested in Australia on immigration charges and deported to France in October 2003.
In March 2007 he was convicted in France for his role in planning terrorist attacks in Australia. It is unclear where Brigitte will live after his release.