Most terrorism charges dropped against Pakistani in plane plot



ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A judge has thrown out most of the terrorism charges against the man Pakistani officials said was a key figure in a plot to bomb airliners flying from London to the U.S., the man's lawyer said.

Rashid Rauf, 25, who holds Pakistani and British citizenship, was arrested in August, days after British officials announced that they had broken up the plot with a wave of raids and arrests in England. The plotters were said to be planning to carry innocent-seeming liquids onto the flights and combine them to form explosives they could detonate.

Pakistani officials arrested seven people in connection with the plot, including two with British passports, one of whom was Rauf. He was the only suspect named publicly at that time. They said he had played a key role and had been in touch with al-Qaida representatives.

But when he appeared yesterday in an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi, the judge dismissed most of the charges against him, upholding a defense objection that they lay outside the court's jurisdiction.

Rauf still faces some secondary charges and is being held by authorities. Britain has requested his extradition, and Pakistani officials said they are considering it.

Rauf is now scheduled to appear before a District and Session Court on Dec. 20 to answer the remaining charges, according to his lawyer, Hashmat Habib.

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