‘From a brother in Syria’: Melbourne nurse boasted of time in Syria with rebels

‘From a brother in Syria’: Melbourne nurse boasted of time in Syria with rebels

May 14, 2021

A Melbourne nurse who helped militants in Syria and posted on social media photographs of weapons and boasts of what he witnessed says he has served enough time in prison.

Adam Brookman abandoned his wife and five children in 2014 to follow his Islamic beliefs and travel to Syria, where he lived alongside Chechen rebels who were fighting against Bashar al-Assad’s government troops.

Adam Brookman when working as an ambulance paramedic.Credit:Facebook

Throughout 2014 Brookman provided medical care and transport for wounded Chechen fighters and also underwent weapons training, did stints as a guard and took part in reconnaissance missions.

The Supreme Court on Friday heard Brookman provided a snapshot of his experiences in Instagram posts, which included photographs of weapons, wounded rebels and fighters’ daily lives. The posts featured passages that often began “From a brother in Syria” and included his devotion to doing to his “duty” to Allah.

“Take a look at this baby … she is a beast,” he wrote about photographs of one high-powered firearm. Then in reference to ammunition the Chechens seized from Assad’s forces: “We will be kind enough to return the ammunition back to you. Kaboom.”

He also described the thrill of driving wounded “mujahideen” [jihadi fighters] in a van without headlights so not to be seen by jets overhead.

A photo of a gun and radio Adam Brookman published on Instagram while in Syria in 2014.

“My faith has never felt so high. I have never felt so good and to Allah is the praise,” he wrote.

Brookman’s activities were being investigated by Australian authorities from early in his time in Syria after his brother called the national security hotline over concerns his sibling was in a war zone.

Brookman stayed in Syria until he was injured and then went to Turkey to arrange his return to Australia, where he was arrested.

Almost six years on, the 46-year-old is awaiting sentence after pleading guilty to a single charge of performing acts in support or promotion of the commission of an offence under foreign incursion laws. The offence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years.

Brookman was initially charged with assisting Islamic State but after years of legal battles his charge does not tie him to the terror organisation. The charge he admitted, said defence counsel Peter Morrissey, SC, was not a terror offence and not one that alleged he entered Syria to engage in “hostile activity”.

Mr Morrissey said Brookman went to Syria to provide medical services, had publicly disassociated himself with Islamic State and never embarked on “bloodthirsty attacks on innocent Australians or acts of terror”. His lack of military training meant he was of “zilch” value on the battlefield then, and he posed no risk to Australia now.

Adam Brookman has spent almost six years in custody.

Mr Morrissey acknowledged Brookman’s medical skills assisted the Chechens against the Assad regime but argued “you could do much worse” than what his client did in the Middle East. “For example, you could help ISIS flatten a town,” he said.

Citing the time already served in custody and the “extraordinary” delay over his case finalising, Mr Morrissey said Brookman had served long enough.

“It’s not necessary for him to do any more time in prison,” he said.

But prosecutor Nicholas Robinson, QC, said it was clear Brookman was devoted to an extremist ideology and disputed the defence argument he was of limited value to the Chechens.

“He was a valuable attribute because he was a medic,” Mr Robinson said in calling for more jail time.

Brookman was born in Ballarat, the court heard, to a Christian family but embraced Islam when as a young man he travelled to Morocco to visit his mother, who had converted with her new partner.

On returning to Australia, Brookman studied nursing and worked in hospitals and as an ambulance paramedic and also studied Islam and Arabic.

He and his wife had five children in Melbourne’s northern suburbs but Brookman left them, without financial support, to travel to Syria.

Investigators later discovered a message sent to Brookman by his wife which questioned why he left when his family had supported him.

Mr Morrissey said his client had since “lost” his family. “His wife and kids have moved on. He faces that reality,” he said.

He now wants to spend time with his parents and hoped to return to work in the medical services industry.

Justice Dixon will sentence at a later date.

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