Three Beat Severest Bombing Charges

April 29, 2009|By Janet Stobart | Janet Stobart,Tribune Newspapers

LONDON -Three men accused of helping suicide bombers who killed 52 people in a 2005 attack on London's transportation system were acquitted Tuesday of the most serious charges they faced, a second defeat for prosecutors in the case.

The jury found Waheed Ali, Mohammed Shakil and Sadeer Saleem not guilty of carrying out a reconnaissance mission to help the four bombers who boarded three subway trains and a bus with homemade explosives on July 7, 2005.

Ali and Shakil were convicted of conspiring to attend a terrorist training camp in Pakistan, a lesser charge, and were scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday.

The verdicts ended a three-month retrial of the men, whose previous proceedings last year resulted in a hung jury. The three defendants have been the only people charged in the attacks.

Under British double jeopardy laws, any further trial of the same defendants would have to be based on new evidence, said a spokesperson for the Crown Prosecution Service, adding it was "technically possible but very rare."

Commenting in the Times of London, Andy Hayman, assistant commissioner for London's Metropolitan Police from 2005 to 2007, wrote that the trial "probably represents the last throw of the dice for the police investigation in 7/7. It is frustrating ... knowing that people who aided and abetted the murders of 52 innocent people remain at large."

The accused, who come from the Beeston area of Leeds in northern England, all admitted to being friends of the four men who carried out the bombings but denied charges of conspiracy to cause an explosion. They were accused of scouting the capital for possible targets with two of the four bombers on a trip to London in December 2004.

The jury was shown homemade videos and heard evidence from secretly recorded conversations that showed the accused were close friends with the four bombers: Mohammed Siddique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer, Hasib Hussain and Jermaine Lindsay.

Ali, 25, and Shakil, 32, were arrested at Manchester airport in 2007. They were about to board a plane for Pakistan where, according to prosecutors, they planned to attend a terrorist training camp.

However, the prosecution failed to provide convincing evidence for the jury to convict Ali, Shakil and Saleem, 28, of conspiracy to cause explosions. Susan Hemming, head of the Crown Prosecution Counter Terrorism section, defended the decision to try the men a second time.

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