Sydney man Ahmed Merhi holds a large assault rifle while posing for a photo.
Sydney man Ahmed Merhi holds a large assault rifle while posing for a photo.

Australian ISIS fighter in Iraqi court

EXCLUSIVE: Australian man Ahmed Merhi has appeared in court in Iraq charged with terrorism offences.

The first Australian member of Islamic State known to have appeared in an Iraqi court, Merhi, 26, fronted the Baghdad Central Criminal Court for a brief hearing.

He was wearing an orange jump suit and had only one leg, walking with the assistance of a crutch.

He appeared before Judge Suhail and spoke in English, briefly confirming his full name and date of birth.

The judge did not outline any particulars of the case against him and instead adjourned the matter to a later date.

Sydney man Ahmed Merhi only had one leg when he appeared in court in Iraq.
Sydney man Ahmed Merhi only had one leg when he appeared in court in Iraq.

Judge Suhail said that the case had to be postponed due to the non-attendance of Australian Embassy officials, and he ordered a memo sent to the embassy requesting their attendance at the next appearance.

The Sydney-born Merhi, a labourer and petty criminal, left Australia for Syria in 2015 and joined Islamic State.

He told the court last night that while he was charged under the name Ahmed Faraj Merhi, his full name was Ahmad Mohammed Abdul-Kareem Merhi.

Ahmed is a member of Islamic State.
Ahmed is a member of Islamic State.

He also told the court the Australian Embassy had been visiting him once a month, had last seen him a week ago, and was trying to organise a lawyer for him.

It had been believed that Merhi was arrested in March, possibly alongside his relative Tarek Khayat, trying to flee Kurdish fighters in the Syrian city of Al-Hasakah.

Tarek Khayat is accused of attempting to blow up an Etihad Airways flight out of Sydney in July last year using two bombs in a Barbie doll and a meat mincer.

The alleged plane bomb plot ringleader Tarek Khayat. Picture: News Corp Australia
The alleged plane bomb plot ringleader Tarek Khayat. Picture: News Corp Australia

However, News Corp can now reveal that Ahmed Merhi was arrested in Syria on December 27, 2017, as he was trying to flee into Turkey.

He was caught by the Kurds, who handed him to the Americans.

It is understood he lost his leg in an air strike in Syria in 2016. After recovering, he attempted to flee to Turkey before he was captured by Kurdish fighters, and taken to the Syrian city of Kobane, in northern Syria near the Turkish border.

He was held there for three days before the Americans transferred him to the Iraqi city of Erbil.

From there, he was handed to counter-terrorism agencies in Baghdad.

Police in Australia say Merhi was involved with a network of Australian extremists who were involved in a number of terror plots, including one which saw police accountant Curtis Cheng shot dead as he left work at the Parramatta police station in October 2015.

Mr Cheng was murdered by a radicalised 15-year-old, Farhad Mohamad Jabar, who was shot dead by police.