Bernadette Wicks
Senior court reporter
2 minute read
7 Feb 2022
3:41 pm

Thulsie twins convicted on terror charges following plea deal with state

Bernadette Wicks

Both brothers also pleaded guilty to attempting to leave South Africa to join ISIL in Syria.

The Thulsi twins, Brandon Lee and Tony Lee at the High Court in Johannesburg, 6 January 2022. Picture: Neil McCartney

After years of protesting their innocence, the Thulsie twins have effected an eleventh hour about-turn – pleading guilty to a number of terror charges between them, including planning attacks on home soil, on the day their trial was finally expected to kick off. 

On Monday morning, Tony-Lee Thulsie pleaded guilty to conspiring to carry out terrorist attacks in South Africa. The plea document revealed he “unlawfully and intentionally” conspired with an individual identified only by the alias ‘Abu Harb’ “to commit the crime of terrorism by agreeing to engage in terrorist activity in South Africa”.

This, the document further revealed, would have involved “the systematic, repeated or arbitrary use of violence by any means or method; endangering the life, or violating the physical integrity or physical freedom of, or causing serious bodily injury to or the death of, any person, or any number of persons; and causing the destruction of or substantial damage to any property, whether public or private”.

And, it went on, this would have been directed against Shia mosques; Jewish events and / or conferences; and foreign interests at airports.

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“The purpose of the conspiracy was to intimidate the Shia and Jewish communities in South Africa and foreigners at South African airports and to cause or spread feelings of terror, fear or panic in the civilian population of South Africa and in particular the sections of the civilian population so targeted,” the plea document read.

Brandon-Lee Thulsie, meanwhile, pleaded guilty to collecting and / or possessing a document or thing connected with the engagement in terrorist activity in the form of an e-book titled ‘How to survive in the West A Mujahid Guide’.

Both brothers also pleaded guilty to attempting to leave South Africa to join ISIL in Syria. This in connection with attempts they made to fly to Turkey and then cross over into Syria in 2015. They were, however, ultimately blocked from boarding their flights after someone tipped off the airline.

Monday’s plea was in accordance with an agreement with the state, which saw Tony-Lee sentenced to an effective 11 years behind bars and Brandon-Lee, to an effective eight. The almost six years they have already spent in detention awaiting trial will be counted towards their sentences, though.

State advocate Adele Barnard said that in coming to an agreement on the sentences, the prosecuting authorities had considered the fact that the planned attacks were never actually effected as well as the fact that the twins were not found in possession of any explosives or detonators.

The twins’ guilty pleas come on what was expected to be the start of their long-anticipated trial after Judge Ratha Mokgoathleng last month ordered the charges finally be put to them.