THE leader of an Islamic group at the centre of anti-terror raids has returned from overseas to resume his hardline preaching in Melbourne.
Nanjing Night Net

Harun Mehicevic, also known as Abu Talha, returned from Bosnia late last month and is again extolling the virtues of jihad at the Al-Furqan Islamic Information Centre in Springvale South.

The Australian Federal Police raided the centre and Mr Mehicevic’s home in September during an operation that focused on 12 properties, most of them in Melbourne’s south-east. Mr Mehicevic was in Bosnia at the time.

As a result of the raids, Adnan Karabegovic, 23, was charged with four counts of collecting documents in connection with the preparation of a terrorist act. The maximum penalty for the offence is 15 years’ jail.

The raids led to the seizure of items including a computer memory stick containing ”violent extremist materials”, as well as imitation firearms and registered guns.

Speaking from the driveway of a flat in Springvale South, Mr Mehicevic said he had been silent since the raids because he felt nothing could be gained from speaking while the Al-Furqan centre was being criticised.

”With all the hype of raids and everything, you get no benefit of talking,” he said. ”You wait for everything to settle down.”

Mr Mehicevic said he was angry that he had been described as the leader of a religious cult, but would wait until after the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha, which was held on the last weekend in October, before deciding whether to discuss the raids in detail. He wrote in an email that the centre had ”decided to keep identical line related to media. Without engagement at all.”

Mr Mehicevic is a controversial figure within the Muslim community. The imam of the nearby Bosnian mosque in Noble Park, Ibrahim Omerdic, said Mehicevic had led a group of ”radical followers” away from the Noble Park mosque about 10 years ago.

Another community source who also spoke of Mr Mehicevic soon after the raids said he was not well respected in Melbourne’s Islamic community.

Mr Mehicevic said reports about his past and a protest outside the Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne had made him wary of the media. He said some aspects of his history had been reported accurately, but he would not elaborate. Fairfax reported after the raids that sources said he had come to Australia from Bosnia as a young adult in the mid-1990s, and that he had a Pakistani-born wife and six children. Mr Mehicevic studied arts at Deakin University and possibly gained a diploma in teaching.

He turned to a conservative form of Islam known as Salafism, became a follower of hardline Melbourne cleric Sheikh Mohammed Omran, and associated with Abdul Nacer Benbrika, who is serving 15-years’ jail for planning a terrorist attack in Melbourne in 2005. When Benbrika split from Omran, Mr Mehicevic remained loyal to the senior cleric.

He said any interview to be conducted after Eid al-Adha would need to be conducted on his terms. ”Whatever we say to you is to be recorded and made to fit what we have said.”

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That’s a big ‘un: Mario Ceniccola (left) and Matt Cini relish the bay’s piscine pleasures. Anglers think the fishery is healthier than ever.
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WITH his fishing rod bending so sharply it resembles a giant fishing hook, Mario Ceniccola grips the handle tightly with one hand, winds up the reel with his other hand and gradually lowers the tip of the rod to the water.

Ten months ago the 62-year-old survived a heart attack; and this morning that organ is getting a workout as the enthusiastic fisherman tries to land his first fish for the day. Clearly it is a big one, undoubtedly a snapper – and certainly the other anglers on the boat wish it was on their line.

With a contest in its early stages and the fish still deep in Port Phillip Bay’s calm waters, Mr Ceniccola urges it to co-operate. ”Slowly come to papa, slowly come to papa,” he says, in a soothing but straining voice.

Mr Ceniccola knows it is best to be patient. After about five minutes his patience is rewarded: the snapper has been brought to within a few centimetres of the surface, its pink and silver colours glistening in the early morning light.

The boat’s skipper, Matt Cini, likes what he sees. ”This is a big fish, this is a very big fish, Mario,” he says, net in hand. He dips it in the water, collects the snapper and lifts it on board. Mr Cini, owner of Reel Time Fishing Charters, estimates it weighs about 6.5 or 7 kilograms. ”Look how fat he is, he’s like a footy,” he says excitedly.

”That’s a barrel, mate, that’s a photo fish – you don’t catch them every day,” he says.

Mr Cini is right, on both counts. The snapper weighs in at 6.5 kilograms, a hefty size a keen angler would not catch in Port Phillip Bay every day, though nowadays it seems anglers chasing snapper have a better chance than just a few years ago.

Fishermen say the bay’s snapper fishery is as healthy as they have ever seen. The unofficial starting date for the snapper season is October 1, but November, says Mr Cini, is the best month. It is also the month for fishing competitions, including the Tea Tree Snapper Fishing competition, held over the past two days.

Mr Cini, who runs charters from Carrum, says Mr Ceniccola’s fish is the biggest caught by one of his customers so far this season. And for Mr Ceniccola it is a personal best. ”I have never caught one that big either, three kilos is my biggest,” he says, after a few back slaps and the odd high-five.

It is a tick past 7am and the golden, pink and mauve colours that stretched over the bay at sunrise have been replaced by bright but gentle sunshine. A few kilometres away residents of Melbourne’s suburbs are into their morning routine: having breakfast, a shower, getting dressed, or travelling to work.

But on Port Phillip Bay it is another world. There are enough people on fishing boats to populate an entire suburb. Mr Cini estimates that more than 300 boats launched at Carrum this morning, and the procession of vehicles towing trailers to the ramps at 4.50am vindicate his estimate.

The snapper fishery has improved markedly over the past two decades, Mr Cini says. In the mid-1990s, when he was learning how to fish with his uncle, snapper fishing trips were not very productive. ”I used to work all weekend to catch two fish, to catch two snapper. And the fishery has just become so healthy now,” he says.

He attributes the improvement to two main things: the cessation of scallop dredging in 1997 and efforts to protect the Yarra and bay from pollution. ”The [snapper] schools that we find now can be up to a couple of hundred metres long and 10 or 20 metres wide. And anywhere from two metres to six metres high, of just solid fish,” he says.

Veteran bay angler Ian Jones, from Beaumaris, says the bay’s snapper fishery is in better health today than he has seen. ”I think that the snapper fishery now is world class, it will continue to be world class and it’s absolutely outstanding compared with what it used to be. It’s much easier to catch fish – I don’t think it’s all [because of] technology – I think it’s a lot to do with the way the fisheries are managed,” he says.

Back on the boat, Mr Ceniccola has hooked another good fish. ”Holy Moses, Abraham, give me a hand,” he says, reeling steadily. It sounds like a plea for help, but it’s clear he’s enjoying himself.

”This leaves sex for dead,” he adds.

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A SURVIVOR of a rail crash that killed one man and injured up to 12 others at a level crossing in Melbourne’s south-east has described his terror when his train collided with a semi-trailer.
Nanjing Night Net

Bill Graham was on the second carriage of a Cranbourne-bound train on Saturday morning when the front carriage took the impact of the smash.

”I heard this really loud bang and I could see this big truck crossing the road and the front carriage just got turned around about 90 degrees,” he said. ”I couldn’t see the driver because of all the dust and smoke, I only saw the back end of the truck. It had almost made it across the crossing but I can’t remember whether the boom gates were down or not.

”The train carriages were rattling all over the place and the train tracks were all bent up. I held on to the rail above my seat pretty tightly until it was all over and just hoped for the best.”

The 64-year-old retiree from Glen Waverley said it took about a minute for the train to come to a complete stop. He estimated about 20 passengers were aboard at the time of the impact, which came shortly after the train left Dandenong station on its way to Lynbrook station.

”After the bang I didn’t hear any people screaming – there was just too much noise from the train itself,” Mr Graham said. ”It just kept going and then it gradually slowed down and I was able to get off through the third carriage with two other guys who were down the back. We managed to get off out the side door. I saw a couple of people in my carriage who had some cuts and grazes but I was lucky, I didn’t have to go to hospital.”

Mr Graham said the incident had shaken him up, particularly when he heard a fellow passenger had died. ”It was a terrible shock,” he said. ”It just makes you value your life.”

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Guidelines surrounding speedometers have stopped people from using the best-selling car to try for their licence.AUSTRALIA’S best-selling car cannot be used in the VicRoads licence test – despite being approved for use in other states.
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It’s the latest blow for novice drivers who are already forced to apply for a special exemption to drive the many modern low-power, fuel-efficient, turbocharged cars.

New drivers must tackle some of the strictest rules in the country before they are allowed on the road, as VicRoads guidelines surrounding speedometers have stopped people from using the best-selling Mazda3 to try for their licence.

Mazda owner Owen Shemansky was told this year that his wife could not use their car to take her driving test as its speedometer was not visible from the passenger seat.

”We bought the Mazda before she was even going for her learner’s licence. We were thinking she would take the car and use it when the time comes,” Mr Shemansky said. ”They knocked us back on the day [of the test] … they turned us away on the spot.”

Mr Shemansky said he was frustrated. ”Buying a brand-new car in Victoria, you’d think a consumer could have a reasonable expectation that it could be used in Victoria for a driver’s test.”

Shrouds around the Mazda3 dashboard limit the view of its speedometer from the passenger seat. A VicRoads spokeswoman said some cars were not suitable for driving exams because the entire speedometer ”must be easily visible to the testing officer from the front and rear passenger seat”. She said a supplementary speedo could be fitted to test cars, but that GPS speed readouts were not allowed and would not be considered in the future ”unless they can be proven to be as accurate as speedometers”.

Provisionary drivers already cannot take the wheel of turbocharged cars such as Volkswagen’s base-model 1.2-litre Golf without applying for special exemption, but can drive Toyota’s 3.5-litre Aurion with double the power.

David Stannus, owner of Australian Design Rules consultancy firm Protech Developments, said VicRoads was out of touch with technology and that GPS units provided a more accurate measurement of speed. He said most dashboard speedometers had a 4 per cent error margin.”GPS will give you an accuracy of 0.5 per cent,” he said.

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