NEWS

British Prosecutors Will Seek Retrial of 7 Men in Liquid- Bomb Plot

By Matthew Harwood

British prosecutors today requested the retrial of seven men acquitted of allegedly trying to detonate liquid bombs on trans-Atlantic flights departing from London's Heathrow International Airport to destinations inside the United States, the Associated Press reports.

"I have today concluded that the prosecution should apply to retry each of these defendants on every count that the recently discharged jury failed to agree upon," said Ken MacDonald,  director of public prosecutions for Great Britain .

On Monday, a British jury acquitted all eight men arrested for conspiring to blow up airliners over the Atlantic Ocean but convicted three on a lesser charge. Abdulla Ahmed Ali, the alleged ringleader; Assad Sarwar; and Tanvir Hussain were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. The jury convicted the three men of conspiracy to murder after all three pleaded guilty to plotting to detonate bombs around London as a political statement and publicity stunt for a YouTube documentary highlighting injustice in the Middle East. The jury did not believe the defendants' claims that the explosions were designed not to have hurt or killed anyone. All three—Ali, Sarwar, and Hussain—maintain they had no intention of blowing up any airliners over the Atlantic Ocean.

The jury could not reach a verdict on four other defendants—Ibrahim Savant, Arafat Waheed Khan, Waheed Zaman, and Umar Islam. The eighth man, Mohammed Gulza, was cleared on all counts by the jury, according to Agence France Presse.

The International Herald Tribune explains the implications of the jury's decision:

The failure to obtain convictions on the plane-bombing charge was a blow to counter-terrorism officials in London and Washington, who had described the scheme as potentially the most devastating act of terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks seven years ago this week. British and American experts had said the plot had all the signs of an operation by Al Qaeda, and that it was conceived and organized in Pakistan.

The arrest in August 2006 of two dozen suspects, including the eight put on trial, set off a worldwide alarm in the airline industry, and led to a tightening of airport security, including time-consuming restrictions on passengers carrying liquids and creams in their carry-on luggage that remain in force at most airports around the globe.

British security officials say the United State's request to arrest a terror suspect in Pakistan in 2006 compromised its investigation, leading them to arrest and detain 20 other suspects in Great Britain before they had collected enough evidence for prosecution, according to both the Tribune and CNN.com.

The prosecution maintains that Ali traveled to the lawless areas of Pakistan to meet with al Qaeda militants and receive the recipe for the liquid bombs, according to the Guardian. Undercover officers also watched the unemployed shopkeeper build his cell and purchase a £135,000 flat for use as a bomb factory. The flat was also used to record martyrdom videos. Ali's video, reports the Guardian, warned the British public "to expect 'floods of martyr operations' that would leave body parts scattered in the streets."

When Ali was arrested, police found a blueprint that allegedly planned the trans-Atlantic bomb plot in one pocket and in another a computer memory stick containing Heathrow's security arrangements and details of flights, including seven highlighted ones to the United States.

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