British Terror Trial Wraps Up

September 22nd, 2008 | Sources: Economist


A closely watched anti-terrorism case came to a close in London last week. In it, British prosecutors charged that 8 British Muslims had planned to disguise liquid explosives as soft drinks, smuggle them onto 7 airliners, and detonate them while the planes flew from London to North America.

The evidence included bomb making equipment, flight schedules on memory sticks, martyrdom videos and a tape of the conspirators at a safe house. But ringleader Abdulla Ahmed Ali claimed his group planned to carry out a lesser stunt, perhaps detonating small devices at harmless locations, perhaps at Heathrow airport.

The jury didn’t believe Ali, but they couldn’t be sure what he was up to. They convicted 3 men of conspiracy to “murder persons unknown,” a lesser charge. They could not reach a verdict on 4 others and acquitted the last one, who was alleged to have been an advisor from al-Qaeda.

In picking up the pieces, some noted that the case was processed per routine through the British criminal justice system. To them, the disappointing result proves that prosecuting the war on terror requires extra-legal processes such as military tribunals and changed rules regarding pre-trial detention periods and rights to privacy and council.

To others, the British police had moved in too quickly. Had they waited a bit longer, they would have had purchased airline tickets and completed bombs-in short, better evidence.


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