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"Aircraft bomb" plotters guilty of conspiracy to murder

07/09/2009

Following a six-month retrial, three men, Abdulla Ahmed Ali, Assad Sarwar and Tanvir Hussain, were today convicted at Woolwich Crown Court of conspiracy to murder in the "aircraft bomb" plot. Sue Hemming, Head of the Crown Prosecution Service Counter Terrorism Division, described the plot as "calculated and sophisticated" and one which could have killed hundreds of people. Another man was convicted of conspiracy to murder without being aware that the targets were aircraft.

Ms Hemming said: "These men wanted to bring down several aircraft in a short space of time, indiscriminately killing hundreds of innocent people - perhaps more if they'd succeeded in activating their devices while over cities.

"This was a calculated and sophisticated plot to create a terrorist event of global proportions and the jury concluded that Ali, Sarwar and Hussain knew what the target was.

"Today's convictions are the culmination of months of collaboration between the CPS Counter Terrorism Division, the Metropolitan Police and the Security Services. Thanks to that hard work and that of counsel prosecuting the case, these dangerous individuals have been brought to justice.

"The men set up a bomb factory to make devices using soft drink bottles. They emptied bottles and intended to refill them with explosives. Detonators were being assembled using batteries and the men intended to explode the devices whilst in the air.

"Other evidence supported this, including notes written by Abdullah Ahmed Ali, the ringleader, on how to avoid the suspicion of airport security. Details of flights to the US and Canada were found on documents and on a USB memory stick.

"Some of the men also recorded chilling so-called martyrdom videos that featured threats to the West of waves of terrorist attacks and suggested justification for terrorism.

"There can of course be no legitimate reason for planning and carrying out such acts.

"The defence of the three men found guilty of the aircraft plot was that they had intended merely to set off small explosions in order to bring attention to their cause and that their videos were intended to be used as part of a documentary.

"We rejected these pleas as inadequate in reflecting the evidence in the case and the level of criminality displayed by the defendants. The jury has also decided, with these verdicts, that they were guilty of much more serious offences and we thank them for their attention to the evidence in this case."

One man was acquitted of both counts of conspiracy to murder and three others were acquitted of conspiring specifically to bring down aircraft. The jury could not agree on those three in respect of an unspecified conspiracy to murder.

The Crown Prosecution Service has seven days to decide whether to retry the three upon whom the jury could not agree.

Ms Hemming continued: "The CPS is committed to prosecuting to the full extent of the law those who would use terror to try and achieve their aims - whatever their motivation and the perceived justification. This trial has been another demonstration of that commitment."

Ends

1. For further information, please call the CPS Press Office on 0207 796 8079. Out of hours pager: 07699 781926

2. Before the court were: Abdulla Ahmed Ali [aka Ahmed Ali Khan], Assad Sarwar, Tanvir Hussain, Ibrahim Savant, Arafat Waheed Khan, Waheed Zaman, Umar Islam [aka Brian Young] and Donald Douglas Stuart-Whyte. Ali, Sarwar and Hussain were found guilty of conspiracy to murder and with others to murder persons unknown by the detonation of improvised explosive devices on board transatlantic passenger aircraft. Savant, Khan and Zaman were found not guilty of this charge and the jury was hung on a count of conspiracy to murder persons unknown. Donald Douglas Stewart-Whyte was found not guilty of both charges. Most were arrested on 9 and 10 August 2006, following what the Metropolitan Police Service say was one of the biggest surveillance operations in British history

4. The maximum sentence for a charge of conspiracy to murder is life imprisonment.

5. The mens arrest sparked a huge security clampdown at British airports, with passengers no longer permitted to take most hand baggage on board, as well as a ban on any liquids.

6. The evidence included :

  • 26,000 exhibits,
  • 9,710 statements
  • 142 interviews with the defendants
  • 800 electronic devices were seized (laptops, PCs, USBs, and external hard drives), 226 from internet cafes
  • The police examined 14,000GB of data, including 15,000 CDs and DVDs and 500 floppy disks

7. The original trial started on 3 April 2008, at Woolwich Crown Court and ended on 8 September 2008 with Ali, Sarwar and Hussain being convicted of conspiracy to murder people unknown (without the element of aircraft). The jury was unable to decide on a verdict in respect of the other charges and defendants, apart from Gulzar, who was acquitted. The CPS announced its decision to apply for a retrial on 10 September 2008. The retrial started on 2 March 2009.

8. The Crown Prosecution Service is the authority responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales. It is responsible for:

  • Deciding the charge where the decision is to prosecute
  • Preparing cases for court
  • Presenting cases at court
    The CPS consists of 1 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). These are organised into 14 Groups, plus CPS London, each overseen by Group Chair, a senior CCP. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales. The CPS employs around 8,250 people and prosecuted 1,032,598 cases with an overall conviction rate of 86.6% in 2008-2009. Further information can be found on our website: www.cps.gov.uk

The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media.  This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests.  The Protocol is published on our website at:

http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/agencies/mediaprotocol.html