Bin Laden 'humble and shy'

OSAMA bin Laden was a shy and humble man who "floated across the floor" when he visited an al-Qa'ida training camp in Afghanistan in 2001 where a Melbourne Muslim convert trained, a court heard yesterday.

Joseph Terrence Thomas told the Victorian Supreme Court that members of the camp would set off explosions and fire bullets into the night in celebration of bin Laden's arrival.

He also spoke of how the terrorist leader warned the camp that "something big" was about to happen prior to the September 11 bombings in New York.

In an unusual courtroom scene, an image of Mr Thomas spoke directly to the jury -- and himself in the dock -- about his experiences in Afghanistan via the airing of a 2 1/2-hour ABC interview he did in 2005.

A bearded, happier-looking Mr Thomas appeared on a wide-screen television and proceeded to detail his experiences in Afghanistan and Pakistan leading up to his arrest in January 2003.

It was a strong contrast to the clean-shaven, sombre-looking 35-year-old who sat in the court dock and watched himself during the interview, often holding his head in his hands, looking down or covering his ears.

Mr Thomas has pleaded not guilty to one charge of knowingly receiving funds from a terrorist organisation and one charge of falsifying an Australian passport.

Prosecutors allege Mr Thomas accepted $US3500 and an airline ticket from senior al-Qa'ida member Khaled bin Attash in Pakistan in January 2003 and Mr Tomas knew he was from the global terrorist organisation.
But defence lawyers have told the court he was desperate to get home and believed the money was a donation from Taliban-sympathetic families in Pakistan.

The Victorian Supreme Court heard Mr Thomas had travelled to Afghanistan in 2001 to help the Taliban fight in its civil war against the Northern Alliance.
"I don't believe life is a spectator sport and sitting around waiting for things to happen," he said in the interview. "I like generally to take action."

Mr Thomas told Four Corners journalist Sally Neighbour in the interview that he went to an al-Qa'ida training camp in Afghanistan but did not know it was a terrorist camp at the time.

He said he wanted to train at a Kurdish camp so he could fight with the Taliban on the "front line" but was directed to the training camp called al-Farouk.
"I didn't think for a second I was in a terrorist camp," he said. "(I) later found out the camp to be an al-Qa'ida camp."

The court heard that bin Laden visited the camp on at least three occasions. "He (bin Laden) was very polite and humble and shy," Mr Thomas said. "He seemed to float across the floor."

The jury was told Mr Thomas was approached by Attash three weeks before he tried to leave Pakistan -- after crossing the border from Afghanistan -- and was arrested by local police.

"He walked up the stairs into the kitchen ... and said out of the blue that an attack on Australia like in Tanzania or Nairobi would bring the government down and there would be chaos in Australia," Mr Thomas said.

"I was totally dumbfounded and angered. I am sure he saw my reaction, which was one of jaw-dropping disbelief, and I walked away."

Mr Thomas denied in the interview that he accepted the money and airline ticket from Attash for terrorism work, saying he thought it was a donation from local Pakistani families who wanted to help him go home.

At another point, he admitted replacing his Afghanistan visa in his passport with a false Pakistani one. "I changed my passport but that was my only crime, I believe," he said.

The trial continues.