Fourth plane bomb accused charged then released by police
THE last of four Sydney men arrested over an alleged Islamic State-orchestrated terrorist plot to blow up a passenger plane has been freed by police after being charged with possessing a prohibited weapon.
Police held Khaled Merhi, 39, for questioning for seven days under Commonwealth counter-terrorism laws and waited until moments before time ran out to release him on Sunday afternoon.
The Surry Hills spray painter was driven out of the back of the Sydney Police Centre with his head covered and his right arm in a sling.
Mr Merhi had a bandage wrapped around his head when he was arrested during police raids on six houses, including his Surry Hills home, on Saturday, July 29.
His solicitor Moustafa Kheir also represents Mr Merhi's brother Abdul, 50, who was arrested and released last Tuesday with no charges laid against him.
"My client Khaled Merhi has also been released. Cleared of any terror allegation," Mr Kheir posted to Twitter.
Khaled Merhi's arm was in a sling as he was released from the lock up.
After he was driven through a media scrum at the police centre, Mr Merhi tried to make his way back to his home in Cleveland Street, which was finally cleared as a crime scene on Friday.
The Australian Federal Police said he was charged with one count of possessing a prohibited weapon and granted police bail to appear at Sydney's Downing Centre Local Court on August 24.
His brother-in-law Khaled Khayat, 49, and Khayat's brother Mahmoud Khayat, 32, remain in custody after being charged last week over the alleged plot to smuggle a bomb hidden inside a kitchen meat mincer onto an Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi on July 15.
Counter-terrorism police obtained court permission to hold all the men for seven days under the "specified time" provisions of the Commonwealth Crimes Act.
Khaled and Mahmoud Khayat, whose older brother Tarek Khayat is a senior IS commander in Syria, are believed to be in Goulburn Jail's Supermax and will face court again on November 14.
Police allege the bomb, built with high-end military-grade explosive, was sent in a kit from Turkey to Sydney via Tarek Khayat.
Police will allege the bomb was built in an everyday kitchen meat mincer and was due to be hidden in the luggage of another, unwitting, Khayat brother, Amer, but for some reason the plan was aborted. One suggestion is the bomb was too heavy for carry-on baggage and the other is they got "cold feet".
The brothers then allegedly received fresh instructions from IS to build a hydrogen sulphide gas bomb to be released in enclosed space on public transport, perhaps a bus or train.
Police said on Friday they had a "mountain" of evidence to examine after the raids.
The back entrance to the Surry Hills property remained boarded up over the weekend, after police officers bashed down the back fence to get into the property.
When The Daily Telegraph visited each of the raided premises yesterday, it appeared the men's families had still not returned home.