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Three men found guilty of plotting 2016 attacks on Melbourne

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SYDNEY (Reuters) – Three men have been found guilty of plotting bomb attacks in the Australian city of Melbourne in 2016, according to a court ruling made public on Wednesday.

The men were charged with planning to attack prominent sites in Australia’s second city on Christmas Day that year in what authorities described as “an imminent terrorist event” inspired by Islamic State.

A jury found the men – Abdullah Chaarani, 27, Ahmed Mohamed, 25, and Hamza Abbas, 23 – guilty on Nov. 2, but the verdict was not announced at the request of their lawyers.

On Wednesday, an appeal court tribunal overturned the suppression order, saying the verdict should be made public.

“The trial has been fully reported and that genie cannot be put back in the bottle,” the tribunal’s three judges said in their ruling.

“A cursory Google search of the applicants’ names instantly reveals the subject matter, evidence and submissions in the trial,” the judges wrote.

Not publishing the verdicts in a much-publicised trial “would be likely to undermine public confidence in the system of criminal justice”, they said.

The men will be sentenced later.

After the men were charged in 2016, then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull called their plan “one of the most substantial terrorist plots that have been disrupted over the last several years”.

The men had targeted locations in Melbourne, including Federation Square, Flinders Street Station and St Paul’s Cathedral for attack “possibly on Christmas Day”, according to authorities.

The plot was inspired by the Islamic State militant group and the suspects had been under surveillance for weeks, police said at the time.

One of the men was an Egyptian-born Australian and the others were Australian-born of Lebanese descent, police said.

The verdict was made public five days after a Somali-born man set fire to a pickup truck full of gas cylinders in central Melbourne and stabbed three people, killing one, before he was shot by police. The attacker later died.

(Reporting by Byron Kaye; editing by Darren Schuettler)

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