updated 5/1/2007 3:09:41 AM ET 2007-05-01T07:09:41

Nine men accused of stockpiling bomb-making chemicals and vowing to avenge perceived injustices against Muslims have been ordered to stand trial for Australia’s largest alleged terrorist conspiracy, a court official said Tuesday.

Magistrate Michael Price ruled that the evidence was strong enough to be heard by a Supreme Court jury and referred the case to the higher court on June 1, said an official at Penrith Local Court, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in line with policy.

The nine men each are charged with conspiring between June 2004 and November 2005 to carry out a terrorist act. None of the suspects, who face a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted, entered a plea, but their lawyers have said they maintain they are innocent.

Prosecutors said at the pretrial hearing that the nine suspects bought unrestricted chemicals that can be used in making explosives, and downloaded instructions from the Internet that included how to mix the cocktail of agents used to make the bombs used in the deadly 2005 London subway attacks.

Prosecutors allege the nine were devotees of a radical Muslim cleric sympathetic to Osama bin Laden, and struck a pact to launch a terrorist attack because they felt their religion was under attack.

Police: Nuclear reactor was under surveillance
No planned target has been revealed, but police alleged the suspects had Australia’s only nuclear reactor — a small facility used to make radioactive medical supplies — under surveillance.

They were arrested in a series of 2005 raids in Sydney and the southern city of Melbourne, where cleric Abdul Nacer Benbrika and other followers also were detained and now face separate charges of belonging to a terrorist group.

Authorities said police found transcripts of bin Laden speeches and other al-Qaida material, as well as videos of people being beheaded, in some of the suspects’ homes.

The nine suspects are Mohammed Ali Elomar, Mazen Touma, Abdul Rakib Hasan, Khaled Cheikho, Moustafa Cheikho, Khaled Sharrouf, Mirsad Mulahalilovic, Omar Baladjam and Mohammed Jamal.

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