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Monday, September 07, 2009 

Britain convicts 3 terrorists, but releases another one from house arrest

First, the almost good news, because there's some disappointments to be found here. 3 terrorists have been convicted for plotting to blow up airlines:
LONDON (AP) - Three British Muslims were convicted Monday of plotting to murder thousands by downing at least seven airliners bound for the U.S. and Canada in what was intended as the largest terrorist attack since Sept. 11.

A jury at a London court found Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, Assad Sarwar, 29, and Tanvir Hussain, 28, guilty of conspiracy to murder by detonating explosives on aircraft while they were in-flight.

Four other alleged conspirators - whom the prosecution said were to have smuggled liquid explosives onboard jetliners disguised as soft drinks - were acquitted of conspiring to blow up planes. The jury could not reach a verdict on an eighth man.

British and U.S. security officials said the plan - unlike many recent homegrown European terrorist plots - was directly linked to al-Qaida and guided by senior Islamic militants in Pakistan, who hoped to mount a spectacular strike on the West.

The officials said British plotters were likely just days away from mounting their suicide attacks when police rounded up 25 people in dawn raids in August 2006.

Their arrests led to travel chaos as hundreds of jetliners were grounded across Europe. Discovery of the plot also triggered changes to airport security, including new restrictions on the amount of liquids and gels passengers can take onto flights.

Prosecutors said suspects had identified seven specific flights from London's Heathrow airport to New York, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto and Montreal, as their targets.

British authorities estimate that, if successful, around 2,000 passengers would have died. If bombs were detonated over U.S. and Canadian cities, hundreds more would have been killed on the ground.

Plotters planned to assemble bombs in airplane toilets using hydrogen peroxide-based explosives injected into soda bottles.

"They were to be detonated in-flight by suicide bombers," including several of the accused, prosecutor Peter Wright said.

Tests by scientists who replicated the bombs in a laboratory showed the devices could produce powerful explosions, though there is no evidence that the terrorist cell had perfected the technique.

Wright told the trial that the group's suicide attacks were planned by "men with the cold-eyed certainty of the fanatic" and intended as "a violent and deadly statement of intent that would have a truly global impact."

He said the plot would have caused "a civilian death toll from terrorism on an almost unprecedented scale."

All eight defendants had denied most charges against them, claiming they were planning a stunt - and not a terrorist attack - to expose failings in Western foreign policy.

Prosecutors were unable to produce evidence that the men had produced a single viable bomb. The trial was the second to take place in a case which has frustrated prosecutors.

Last year, Ali, Sarwar and Hussain were convicted of conspiracy to murder, but the jury could not reach a verdict on whether they specifically targeted aircraft. The jury at that trial failed to reach verdicts against other four defendants.

Jurors on Monday cleared Donald Stewart-Whyte, 23, of all charges. They found Umar Islam, 31, guilty of a charge of conspiracy to murder, but could not decide if he was involved in targeting aircraft.

They found three other men: Ibrahim Savant, 28, Arafat Waheed Khan, 28 and Waheed Zaman, 25, not guilty of planning to blow up airliners, but could not reach verdicts on whether the three men were guilty of conspiracy to murder.

Each defendant, except Stewart-Whyte, had pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance.

Prosecutor Adina Ezekiel said authorities will announce if they will seek a third retrial.
So 5 others went free? Not as good news as we'd hoped, and it sounds like the prosecution, if this article is sufficiently accurate, did not do a good enough job. Now, the bad news: another one has been released from house arrest:
LONDON (AP) - Britain's government released a man from a house arrest program only weeks before it would have been forced to disclose intelligence to justify his detention, his lawyer said Monday.

The 29-year-old man - a Libyan-British dual national identified only as A.F. - had been put under a "control order" program, which allows the government to tell terror suspects where they can live and when they can leave their homes, in June 2006.

But he was never told exactly why, and sued to have the government disclose information critical to his right to a fair trial, according to his attorney Carl Richmond.

"In the more than three years since the control order was imposed on A.F., the essence of the case against him has remained entirely undisclosed," Richmond said. "It has merely been said that there is a reasonable suspicion that he has engaged in some form of terrorism related activity."

The man's release came as he prepared for a legal hearing at which Home Secretary Alan Johnson would have been forced to reveal the information the government used to justify his house arrest.

The House of Lords, Britain's highest court of appeal, accepted his argument earlier this year and ruled that prosecutors can no longer refuse to tell terror suspects held under the program why they are deemed a risk to national security. The court also ordered the government to either disclose further information on their case against the man or abandon the control order.

Richmond said he and his client heard nothing from the government in the wake of the June ruling. But as they prepared for a new legal challenge, the control order was revoked.

Police and security services later arrived at his home two weeks ago to remove an electronic tag that he had been forced to wear permanently. The man had also been ordered to remain at his house for 18 hours a day, and could not meet people, or go out to work without express permission from the government. All those conditions have now been lifted.

"He's now free to live his life again," Richmond said. "He couldn't even work before - no one would employ him with those time restrictions."

The Home Office said while it didn't comment on individual cases, it was considering the impact the court ruling had on control orders in general. There are around 20 people living under court orders in Britain - according to the latest data collected in June 2009.

"Where the disclosure required by the court cannot be made for the protection of the public interest, we may be forced to revoke the control order, even though the government considers the control order to be necessary to protect the public from a risk of terrorism," the statement said. "In such circumstances, we will take all steps necessary to protect the public."

Richmond said his client will now seek compensation from the government.
Disgusting. This is the kind of act that puts Britain's dedication to the war on terror under a question mark, if they cannot ensure that terrorists like the one spoken about in the second article are not imprisoned or exiled from the UK altogether.

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