Teenage boy to face bedside hearing on terrorism charge

Church riot accused speaks outside court

Source: AAP

A 16-year-old boy has been charged with a terrorism offence over Monday night’s alleged church stabbing in Sydney’s south-west.

The teenager has been under guard in hospital since the disturbing attack at Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley.

Investigators from the Joint Counter Terrorism Team Sydney interviewed the alleged offender in hospital on Thursday and charged him with committing a terrorist act.

The offence carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for life, police said.

The teen has been refused bail and is expected to face a bedside hearing on Friday. He reportedly suffered a finger injury during the alleged stabbing.

Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel and a priest were both hospitalised after the 16-year-old’s alleged attack during a live-streamed sermon just after 7pm on Monday night.

The bishop suffered cuts to his head and the 39-year-old priest, Father Isaac Royel, was left with cuts and a shoulder injury while trying to help.

The Joint Counter Terrorism Team Sydney includes members of NSW Police, Australian Federal Police, ASIO and the NSW Crime Commission.

Injured bishop's statement after stabbing

Source: Christ the Good Shepherd Church

‘Malicious’ trend

The charge comes as police have urged the public not to share unsubstantiated information on social media platforms because it is leading to “disharmony”.

Video and online commentary from the church stabbing – and from the deadly knife rampage at Westfield Bondi Junction last Saturday – have led to speculation and unrest spreading online.

“The NSW Police Force reminds members of the public to rely only on information released from government agencies,” police said on Thursday.

“Misinformation continues to spread disharmony amongst the community, and we urge everyone to wait for official communication from NSW Police.”

NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb added to that warning on Friday.

“I do know that there’s been information on applications like WhatsApp, TikTok, other things like that, suggesting certain things – and they’re not true. It’s creating fear, unnecessary fear in the community. And it needs to stop,” she said.

NSW Premier Chris Minns has said malicious information about damage to mosques and churches is spreading “like wildfire” and inflaming tensions in the community.

“I’m still concerned about graphic, violent imagery being available on public domain websites, major websites, 48 hours after the incident had occurred,” he said.

Investigators are still hunting for as many as 50 people involved in the violent riot that unfolded after the church stabbing. Dozens of police were injured, their cars vandalised, and some officers and paramedics were forced to shelter inside the church.

NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb said many people who turned up for the commotion were not members of the church community.

“[What] has been shown is that people just came along to participate in a riot and that’s disgraceful and disgusting,” she said.

Webb said 50 people were wanted for questioning over the unrest, including several who disguised themselves. Police have asked for public help to identify them.

“People in the community know who they are, their families know who they are, and we need to know who they are,” she said.

Dani Mansour, from Doonside, is the first person to be charged over the public disorder incident.

Appearing in court on Thursday, the 19-year-old said he made a mistake but he was “p–sed off” at officers who had hurt people outside the church.

Mansour allegedly filmed himself kicking two police cars during the riot before uploading the footage to Instagram. Outside Blacktown police station on Thursday, he said he had “just done one [police car]”.

He will next face Blacktown Local Court on May 2.

Emmanuel has said he forgives his accused assailant and called on his followers to obey the law following the riot.

“I need you to act Christ-like, the lord Jesus never taught us to fight,” he said in an audio message released by the church on Thursday.

The attack was declared a terrorist act because of the teen’s possible religious motivation.

Minns met religious leaders on Thursday to call for calm and cohesion.

“We’ve come together because we need to, and the message that’s been sent from community leaders is one of compassion, understanding, cohesion, unity and most important peace,” he said.

Minns stressed the importance of faith leaders in imparting instruction and wisdom to the millions of people across NSW who will attend churches and mosques to be with their communities.

“They’ll go there for solace and for strength,” he said.

-with AAP

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