Two Muslim brothers ordered to demolish an illegal religious compound north of Sydney have done almost nothing to abide by court orders made three months ago.
Mustapha and Diaa Kara-Ali were told to stop all work on the bushland hideaway at Colo in the Hawkesbury region but instead erected more buildings on the site.
On August 27 the Land and Environment Court ordered the pair to demolish and remove sheds, slabs, fences and every other structure they had illegally built on the property within 28 days.
Justice Terry Sheahan’s orders were ignored and the brothers now face jail after each pleaded guilty to four counts of contempt.
Brothers Diaa (left) and Mustapha (right) Kara-Ali refused to dismantle an Islamic retreat built without council approval because they claimed not to be answerable to Australian laws
This photograph of the frame of a barn built by the Kara-Ali brothers at the Colo retreat was taken on August 21, six days before Justice Terry Sheahan ordered it to be pulled down
This photograph taken last Friday shows the completed barn, more than three months after Justice Sheahan ordered its removal. Further fencing has also been added to the property
Photographs taken last Friday compared with pictures taken in August show the Kara-Ali brothers continued to undertake work at the Putty Road site after the orders were made.
The frame of a barn is clearly visible in pictures taken a week before the court orders. Three months later that barn has been completed and is housing Arabian horses.
Last month a lawyer for the brothers said they had removed religious signage from the property as well as flags and flagpoles. Little else seems to have been done to comply with Justice Sheahan’s orders.
‘My clients have indicated they want to enter into discussions with Hawkesbury Council,’ the lawyer told Justice Sheahan.
‘They have resigned themselves to a position of compliance. They’ve consciously made a decision to de-escalate the matter.’
‘They have begun the process of complying with the orders. It is my clients’ position the site is no longer suitable for religious purposes. It has been desecrated, as such.’
A lawyer for Diaa (left) and Mustapha (right) Kara-Ali told Justice Terry Sheahan last month the brothers were in the process of complying with his orders. They have a lot of work left to do
This pictures shows the front gates of the Colo religious retreat as well as flagpoles and fences that were erected without approval. Across the road the Kara-Alis illegally cleared bushland
The barn, shed and demountable buildings in this picture were to be demolished or removed two months ago. Instead, the barn has been finished and more fencing has been installed
The Kara-Ali brothers had previously said they would not obey Australia law and indicated they would refuse to abide by any court rulings over their religious retreat.
They refused to acknowledge legal action brought by Hawkesbury City Council and for months ignored all orders of the Land and Environment Court.
Mustapha Kara-Ali had told Daily Mail Australia he would refuse council officers access to the land, stating they were ‘Cruasaders’ and an affront to Islam.
He and Diaa refused to attend the court because they did not recognise its authority.
The brothers maintained their resolve after Justice Sheahan found they had undertaken land clearing and earthworks in breach of planning laws and had built structures without approval.
‘Because of the religious symbolism of the court, that contradicts with my religion,’ Mustapha Kara-Ali said. ‘For my religion to be free I can’t be dictated to by another religion.’
Mustapha (right) and Diaa Kara-Ali (left) pictured when confronted by Hawkesbury City Council officers at the gates of their 12 hectare property in the Hawkesbury region in July
Justice Terry Sheahan ordered on August 27 this gateway and fencing at the Kara-Alis’ Colo religious retreat to be removed within 28 days . This photograph was taken on November 30
Justice Sheahan ordered all structures on the site including an elaborate entrance, four flagpoles, three concrete slabs, a shed and the partly-built barn be demolished.
He also restrained the group from ‘carrying out of any and all religious activities of devotion, self-discipline, ritual baptism, inter-community prayers, contemplation and religious study or for the purposes of public worship.’
The Kara-Alis were building the retreat under the auspices of the Diwan Al Dawla Islamic guild, which bought the property for $670,000 in May last year.
The 12 hectare property has been home to about 30 Arabian horses which the group intended to use to help troubled Muslim youth, particularly from western Sydney, engage with God.
The council launched civil action against the brothers alleging they had carried out illegal land clearing and earthworks and built gates, fences and driveways without approval.
This barn, built for Arabian horses, was just a frame when court orders were made for its removal. It is the largest illegally built structure on an illegal Islamic retreat north of Sydney
Every building in this photograph taken on November 30 should have been removed by the end of September. Some of the structures have been added since the court orders were made
The brothers agreed they had not sought approval for the work and said they had no intention of doing so because they did not recognise Australian law.
‘My main issue is the interference between the secular and the religious,’ Mustapha Kara-Ali said.
‘What we are saying in a nutshell is the country of Australia is entrenched in secular symbolism and religious symbolism that stretches back to the time of the Crusades.
‘This means that this government is not secular. It is religious because it carries these symbols.
‘And we refuse for pagan symbols such as crosses to be on top of our lives.
‘Remove these religious symbols and we can talk about secular government. But not now. For us, this is religious freedom.’
The imam said if government bodies tried to enforce their rules upon him he would resist. ‘I tell you what, people like us will say our God is supreme.’
Mustapha Kara-Ali pictured at the gates of the religious retreat he founded at Colo in the Hawkesbury region north of Sydney. He did not seek council approval for the development
The only obvious work to rehabilitate the Colo bushland site that has been done since court orders were made on August 27 is the removal of religious signage and four flagpoles
Dr Kara-Ali believed his guild members were being treated as ‘violent ragheads that know nothing about the world.’
‘We believe in our cause. We believe we are pioneers of religious freedom in this country.
‘It is our way to disconnect. We want to disconnect. We want to be left alone.’
The court heard the conflict turned ugly in July when three council officers attended the property to serve papers on the Kara-Ali brothers. A dashcam video tendered to the court showed the pair confront the officers.
‘Both men were repeatedly yelling obscenities from the other side of the gate, calling out, “You dogs, I step on your cross”, one of the council officers alleged.
However, Dr Kara-Ali said he and his brother were intimidated by the actions of the ‘violent monkeys’ and anyone could enter the site as long as they did not do so under a cross.
These demountable buildings, photographed on August 21, were to be removed within 28 days of August 27. They were being used by workers on the property or sometimes for prayer
The same demountable buildings are still on the property, three months after a court order that they be removed. Mustapha and Diaa Kara-Ali have pleaded guilty to contempt charges
Dr Kara-Ali wrote to Hawkesbury City Council in March explaining another reason why he believed government had no authority over his group.
‘The Colo Wilderness site is a religious site that is owned by the members of Diwan Al Dawla for the carrying out of religious activities of devotion, self-discipline, ritual baptism, inter-community prayers, contemplation and religious study, he wrote.
‘The Land with its Colo River access serves as a reclusive place of worship.’
‘Members of Diwan al Dawla… live as a religious guild separated from secular lifetsyles to pursue a religious mode of worship to and an ascetic lifestyle under an oath of self-sacrifice and dedication to the purpose of Diwan Al Dawla.’
Dr Kara-Ali contended Hawkesbury City Council had no power to tell Diwan Al Dawla what to do because it is a ‘basic religious charity’ registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for profits Commission (ACNC).
‘Charities who meet the definition of Basic Religious Charity do not have to submit annual financial reports, and they do not have to comply with the ACNC governance standards which include… “Compliance with Australian laws”,’ Dr Kara-Ali wrote.
According to the imam, that also put his guild above the law.
The Kara-Ali brothers are due back in court on Monday when Justice Sheahan will hear evidence about what they have done to comply with his orders.
Mustapha and Diaa Kara-Ali are due back in the Land and Environment Court on Monday when Justice Sheahan will hear evidence about what they have done to comply with his orders