Bail after 15 months for accused in drug war

A member of a family accused of being involved in a gun war with a rival clan in Melbourne's north-west was granted bail today.

Ali Tiba, 20, had been in custody since he and his older brother, Mohammed, and nephew Abdul, were arrested on July 5 last year following raids by police from the Santiago taskforce, which has investigated Middle Eastern crime gangs, the Special Operations Group and the Dog Squad.

A wave of violence allegedly connected to a family feud between the Tiba and Kassab families had included a house bombing and numerous drive-by shootings.

Tiba, who faces charges of armed robbery, false imprisonment and car theft, appeared in the County Court today for a bail application before Chief Judge Michael Rozenes.

Defence lawyer Carolene Gwynn said Tiba was being held in Barwon Prison's maximum security unit where he was in 23-hour lockdown and only allowed to leave his cell for an hour a day.

Ms Gwynn said when Tiba did leave his cell, his hands and feet were shackled.

His brother was in the next cell but they were not allowed to speak to each other.

The only contact he had was with prison guards and he had been threatened by other inmates.

Tiba and his brother and nephew are expected to stand trial next April on charges related to an alleged drug deal gone wrong.

Judge Rozenes said the Crown case was that Mohammed and Abdul picked up Ali at Sunshine railway station on July 2 last year before going to see a drug dealer.

The judge said Mohammed allegedly did not like the drug "ice" he was given, became angry and produced a pistol and fired a shot into the ground. Ali later allegedly told his brother not to kill the drug dealer and they agreed to let him go after robbing him.

Prosecutor Bill Dwyer, when arguing Ali was an unacceptable risk of reoffending if granted bail, said his family was "involved in criminal conduct".

"This matter is very much a family affair," he said.

Mr Dwyer said Ali, one of eight children, had been on bail for burglary offences when he failed to show up at court on April 27 last year and travelled to Lebanon with his partner.

Ali returned to Melbourne and was in effect the run from the law when allegedly involved in the July 2 incident with his brother and nephew.

"It's a drug ripoff to use a colloquialism," Judge Rozenes said. "It's a bit of hooliganism."

The judge said it appeared the case against Ali was not strong and identification was an issue.

The process of identification had been compromised and open to attack.

Ms Gwynn had earlier told the court that Ali had been picked out by one witness from a photo board.

She said the witness had actually seen Ali on television when a current affairs show had featured the Tiba family before picking him out on the photo board.

Judge Rozenes said he had decided to grant Ali bail with strict conditions because of his age, the conditions he faced in prison and the fact his older brother had offered to give him a job and his partner would provide accommodation for him.

The judge said he might have taken a different view of Ali's prospects of staying out of trouble if his brother, Mohammed, was at large and not in custody.

He ordered Ali live with his partner at Thomastown, report daily to Epping police station, surrender his passport, not attend any points of international departure, accept help from the Youth Support and Advocacy Service, and have one of his older brothers put up $20,000 as a surety.

The judge told Ali that he was at a crossroads and he had a simple choice – to live like a good person in the community or be a criminal.

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