Sixteen-year-old arrested in Anzac terror plot to plead not guilty

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Story highlights

  • Teen's lawyer: Client charged with terror plotting will plead not guilty
  • Lawyer will apply for bail later in the week
  • Police announced the 16-year-old's arrest on terror charges ahead of annual Anzac celebrations
  • Anzac day honors Australian and New Zealand troops who served or died in armed conflict

(CNN)The Sydney teenager charged with plotting a lone-wolf terror attack on Anzac Day will plead not guilty, according to reports in Australian media.

His lawyer, Zamarai Khatiz, added outside Parramatta Children's Court that the minor did not apply for bail. The defense will defer that application until the end of the week, he said, after a psychologist has visited his client and complied a report on the effects of detention on him.
    "The psychological impact of long-term incarceration will be a very relevant and powerful factor in that bail application," he told the court.
    New South Wales police arrested the 16-year-old boy Tuesday on suspicion of plotting a terror attack, Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said in an early-morning press conference just after a dawn ceremony in Sydney.
    Police believe the teen was planning on disrupting Anzac commemorations in Sydney. The occasion, which is observed annually, honors Australian and New Zealand troops who served or were killed in armed conflict, and falls on the anniversary of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps' landing at Gallipoli, Turkey in 1915.
    The teen, who cannot be named because of his age, is charged with "preparation for, or planning, a terrorist act," an offense that carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. He did not attend the hearing.
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    The teen was reportedly arrested after attempting to obtain a firearm in the Sydney suburb of Auburn. It has emerged that he had been known to police since last May, Australian outlet ABC reports.
    A statement from Minister of Justice Michael Keenan said that the news of his alleged plot was a "truly chilling and disturbing scenario," and a "sad reflection of the current terror threat landscape in Australia."

    'Groomed' for terror

    Police point to the vulnerability of teenagers to become radicalized. Federal police Commander Chris Sheehan said: "In Australia and around the world, the age of people radicalised is getting younger, with online grooming tactics similar to those used by sexual predators."
    Police say they found "extremist propaganda" at the boy's Auburn home, along with evidence to indicate that he was in the advanced stages of planning an attack, CNN affiliate Seven News says.
    Keith Suter, foreign editor of Seven's Sunrise program, said: "Clearly this youngster was groomed online, presumably by someone overseas.
    "He's just someone who got seduced by the online communication and as the police commissioner said, parents have to be so careful as to what their kids are doing on their computers."
    The thwarted attack bears similarities to arrests made a year ago, when five young men were arrested in Melbourne ahead of a 2015 Anzac ceremony, in what police called a major counterterrorism operation.
    Other Australian teens have been seduced by the lure of extremism, including Abdullah Elmir, a 17-year-old Australian who allegedly fled to Syria before appearing in an ISIS propaganda video vowing to raise the ISIS flag over the White House.