Monday, April 30, 2007

5 Britons Convicted

London, April 30 — A British court today found five men guilty of a conspiracy to use fertilizer bombs to blow up targets — including, perhaps, a nightclub, a shopping mall and an electric power grid — after a yearlong trial and record jury deliberations of nearly a month.

All five of the convicted men were British citizens, four of them of Pakistani descent, who made trips to Pakistan to learn about explosives and terror techniques at a camp that the court heard was connected to Al Qaeda. Two other defendants in the case, also Britons of Pakistani descent, were acquitted.

Omar Khyam, 26, Waheed Mahmood, 34, Anthony Garcia, 24, Jawad Akbar, 23, and Salahuddin Amin, 31, were convicted of conspiring to cause an explosion likely to endanger life, the Home Office said. The judge, Sir Michael Astill, sentenced the five men to life imprisonment.


The trial court heard the first concrete evidence to surface that some of the conspirators had met with two of the men who later went on to blow themselves up in an attack on London’s transit system in July 2005, the deadliest terror attack in Britain’s history.

At the time of the police surveillance of Mr. Khyam, who was convicted today, together with two of the transit bombers in early 2004, the British authorities judged that the two men who went on to become suicide bombers were not dangerous enough to pursue further, according to a 2006 parliamentary report and court evidence.

The two men went on to take part in the 2005 transit attack, which killed 52 people.

Within an hour of the verdict this morning, the opposition Conservative Party, survivors and relatives of victims of the July 2005 transit attack called for an official inquiry into why the authorities missed an opportunity to prevent the atrocity.

The Home Secretary, John Reid, put the best face on the growing controversy, saying in a statement that the law enforcement agencies could never guarantee “100 percent success” in combating terror.

Sir Michael, the judge, told defense lawyers this morning that “all of these are radicalized young men, all of these young men have been radicalized by others. They are the people who take the punishment.”

The lawyer for one of the defendants, Mr. Amin, had told the jury that Mr. Amin had been tortured after being arrested by the Pakistan intelligence authorities. The judge today said that Mr. Amin had been treated in a “completely unacceptable” way in Pakistan.


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