Judge denies bail to teen charged with terror-related offenses after stabbings at Sydney church

SYDNEY (AP) — A judge denied bail Thursday to a 15-year-old boy alleged to be in a network planning terrorist acts and who claimed to be a friend of another teen accused of stabbing a Sydney bishop last month.

The attack on the bishop triggered an investigation that led to the arrests of six teens, ages 14 to 17, who were charged last week with a range of offenses including conspiring to engage in or planning a terrorist act. All remain in custody.

The 15-year-old boy’s lawyer Ahmed Dib had applied for bail Wednesday in the Parramatta Children’s Court, arguing there were exceptional circumstances that required his client's release.

But Magistrate James Viney ruled such circumstances did not exist. “There is an unacceptable risk to the protection of the community,” Viney said.

Viney said he found the boy’s alleged threats to stab Jewish or Assyrian people, a predominantly Christian ethnic group native to the Middle East, and an alleged assault to be “gravely concerning.”

“The messages clearly set up the young person wanting to do something catastrophic,” Viney said.

The boy was already in custody on an assault charge when the terrorism-related charge was added Friday.

Earlier last week, he was accused of being part of group that threw rocks at a liquor store employee. The boy allegedly threw a wooden plank that narrowly missed his intended target. The boy was allegedly carrying a knife at the time.

Prosecutor Rebekah Rodger said the boy had told associates in an encrypted chat group that the 16-year-old boy accused of stabbing an Assyrian Orthodox bishop and priest on April 15 was “my mate.”

Later, the boy's lawyer, Dib, told reporters he would apply for bail to the New South Wales state Supreme Court.

The documents Dib had submitted as evidence of his client’s special circumstances showed the boy had a history of behavioral issues, lacked confidence and had low self-esteem.

The boy propped his head up with his hand for much of the hearing as he watched on from custody via videolink, as his parents sat in court.

Viney said he had “no doubt” the parents were both loving and supportive of their son, and had confiscated his phone after becoming concerned by his behavior.

“They are genuinely shocked as to the charges he’s facing,” Viney said.

At the end of the hearing, the mother left the courtroom in tears.

Police alleged the six teens arrested last week all “adhered to a religiously motivated, violent extremist ideology” and were part of a network that included the boy who is accused of the stabbing in the Christ the Good Shepherd Church as a service was being streamed online. Neither the bishop nor priest suffered life-threatening injuries.

The boy arrested in the stabbings was charged with committing a terrorist act four days after the attack that triggered a riot outside the church.