Public servant accused of financing Islamic State refused bail

A suspended public servant used a schoolgirl to send more than $33,000 to Islamic State, a Sydney court has heard.

Linda Merhi, 40, was last week charged with five counts of sending money overseas to help fund Islamic State between February and October 2015.

Today she was refused bail by Magistrate Jennifer Giles.

Ms Merhi’s brother Ahmed Merhi has been in Syria since 2014 fighting with Islamic State.

The court heard that Ms Merhi had supplied money to the girl on multiple occasions, instructing her to get another person to send the money overseas through Western Union money transfer.

She told the girl not to do it herself as she was under 18 and her niqab would draw attention.

Reading from the police facts sheet, Magistrate Giles said Ms Merhi was giving the girl money to send to Mr Merhi and the Mujahideen, to supply weapons to Islamic State.

Ms Merhi’s lawyer Mona El Baba argued her client should be given bail as she was suffering from poor mental health in prison and needed to care for her elderly mother and her brother who has Down syndrome.

She also said the Crown’s case was weak and that Ms Merhi posed no ongoing threat to the community.

Ms El Baba suggested Ms Merhi be placed under house arrest, without access to any communications devices or the internet, and she offered to surrender her passport.

She added she was concerned Ms Merhi’s mental health was so poor that she may be unfit to stand trial if she remained in custody.

But Magistrate Giles rejected those concerns, labelling them a “dramatic prediction based on one week in custody”.

She said while the case was circumstantial, she did not think the Crown had a weak argument.

Magistrate Giles added she did not believe someone who had “assisted and shown sympathy to Islamic State” could ever be considered to not be a threat to the community.

Ms El Baba said Ms Merhi had been suspended from her job on full pay.

Ms Merhi’s co-accused, the schoolgirl who cannot be named for legal reasons, has been granted bail.

Source: ABC