Australian cricketer's brother arrested over fake terror plot

The brother of Australia test cricketer Usman Khawaja has been charged over an attempt to implicate a love rival in a fictitious terror plot. The rival spent four weeks in solitary confinement before being released.

Arsalan Khawaja, 39, was arrested in Sydney on Tuesday and charged over framing a love rival as the author of a terrorist hit list.

Khawaja, whose brother Usman is an opening batsman for Australia's cricket team, was bailed on condition he surrender his passport and report to police three times a week. He is due to appear in court on charges forgery by making a false document, attempting to pervert justice and lying to police.

Police allege Khawaja loaded information regarding a fake terrorist plot to kill Australia's former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, onto a notebook computer used by Mohamed Nizamdeen, a 25-year-old Sri Lankan-born PhD student and colleague of Khawaja at the University of New South Wales. There were also blueprints for attacks on landmarks, including the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the city's iconic Opera House. 

Nizamdeen was arrested, charged with terrorist offenses and spent four weeks in solitary confinement at a remote super-secure prison. He was released in October after police figured out the script didn't match his handwriting and the charges were dropped.

Usman Khawaja, who is preparing with the Australia squad in Adelaide ahead of Thursday's first test against India, made a brief statement asking for privacy while the case ran its course.

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"This is a matter for police to deal with," he said. "Out of respect for the process, it would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment."

Motivated by love

Authorities believe Khawaja and Nizamdeen were fighting for the affection of the same woman, leading to the fictitious plot implicating Nizamdeen.

"We believe this was planned and it was calculated," Mick Willing, the assistant commissioner of the New South Wales Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Command, told reporters on Tuesday. He also maintained that police acted properly during what seemed to be a real terrorism threat.

"We regret the circumstances which led to him being charged and the time he subsequently spent in custody," he said. "We feel sorry for him and what has happened to him (but) we had to act early at the time, given the threats contained in that notebook."

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Nizamdeen has since returned to his native Sri Lanka and is planning to sue New South Wales police.

"What authorities have done to this young man is absolutely unforgivable," Nizamdeen's lawyer, Moustafa Kheir said after the charges were dropped in October. "It's a terrible experience. He is a young man that has done everything right in life."

dv/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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