London Court Sentences Men for Foiled Terror Plot to Blow Up Transatlantic Airplanes
Posted: January 5, 2010
Of the 14 men arrested and charged in August 2006 by British authorities in connection to a plot to blow up seven airplanes flying from Britain to the United States and Canada, ten have been sentenced in a London court.
Arafat Khan, 28, Ibrahim Savant, 28, and Waheed Zaman, 25, were each sentenced on July 12, 2010, to a maximum of life in prison for planning to conduct coordinated suicide attacks. The men must serve a minimum of 20 years in prison. On December 9, 2009, Adam Khatib, 22, Nabeel Hussain, 25, and Mohammed Shamin Uddin, 39, were sentenced to a minimum of 18, eight and seven years, respectively. Three months earlier, Abdullah Ahmed Ali, 28, Assad Sarwar, 29, and Tanvir Hussain, 28, and Umar Islam, 31, were also sentenced to a maximum of life in prison and must serve a minimum of 40, 36, 32 and 22 years in prison, respectively.
Ali, the apparent ringleader, was sentenced for conspiring to murder by detonating improvised explosive devices on board transatlantic passenger aircraft. In a video shown at the trial, Ali stated that he had been planning to "participate in jihad in the path of Allah" since he was 15 years old. He criticized the West for interfering in Muslim lands, including Iraq and Afghanistan, and warned to "expect floods of martyr operations against you and we will take our revenge and anger, ripping amongst your people and scattering the people and your body parts and your people's body parts responsible for these wars and oppression decorating the streets."
During his trial, Ali stated that the videos were intended to be "sensational and threatening and angry…We were just copying the rhetoric and statements and style of other videos."
In another video, suspect Umar Islam, 31, who was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, allegedly said, "Martyrdom operations upon martyrdom operations will keep on raining on these kuffar [non-Muslims]." He also admitted that he was seeking revenge for American foreign policies and "their accomplices such as the British and the Jews." The jury could not reach a verdict on the aircraft-related charges against Islam, who was sentenced in September 2009 to a minimum of 22 years in prison.
Khatib, who was found guilty of conspiring to murder civilians in a "deadly terrorist attack," was allegedly identified by Ali as a potential suicide bomber who was willing to board one of the targeted planes. Police searching Khatib's home also recovered documents containing a "recipe" for a hydrogen peroxide explosive compound.
Hussain, who provided logistical and financial support to the cell, was found guilty of acts preparatory to terrorism. Uddin was found guilty of possessing material – a CD containing bomb-making instructions – used to prepare a terrorist act and sentenced to seven years in prison. Prosecutors claimed that he researched how to buy hydrogen peroxide, the main ingredient for the liquid explosives.
Authorities who searched Sarwar's home after the arrests reportedly recovered computer memory sticks with information about alternative targets, including nuclear power stations, oil and gas terminals and skyscrapers in east London. They also found at least six "martyrdom videos," parts of which were played for the jury. In one video, Hussain expressed regret that, following the planned attacks, he "can't come back and do this again and again until, you know, people come to their senses and realize…don't mess with the Muslims."
Ali, Sarwar and Hussain had previously been found guilty in September 2008 to conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to create a public nuisance, but the jury could not reach a verdict on whether they planned to target airplanes. The jury also failed to reach verdicts against the four other defendants, and acquitted another man accused of being a link between the UK and Al Qaeda.
In September 2009, Ali, Sarqar and Hussain were retried and convicted of conspiracy to murder by detonating improvised explosive devices on board transatlantic passenger aircraft. During the retrial, prosecutors introduced new evidence, including e-mails circulated among Ali, Sarwar, Hussain and a Pakistan-based handler, later identified by authorities as Rashid Rauf. These e-mails, which were not used in the previous trial due to laws prohibiting the use of intercepted telephone conversations and other electronic intercepts in British courts, were obtained from the records of Internet providers in the U.S., according to British officials.
Rauf, who was arrested in Pakistan in August 2006, escaped from custody a year later, shortly before his scheduled extradition to Britain. He was reportedly killed in a U.S. airstrike in Pakistan in November 2008, though his family maintains he is still alive. Pakistani authorities have arrested as many as 17 others, including at least two British nationals, in connection with the plot.
Three other defendants – Arafat Khan, Ibrahim Savant, and Waheed Zaman – were convicted in July 2010 of conspiracy to murder and handed down sentences of at least 20 years in prison. The men were previously tried in 2008 and 2009, when they were acquitted of conspiracy to blow up airplanes but the jury deadlocked on whether or not they were guilty of conspiracy to murder. In a video played for the jury, Zaman allegedly accused the U.S. and England with supplying "weapons to the enemies of Islam, including the accursed Israelis" and threatened that "death and destruction will pass upon you like a tornado."
Another suspect, Donald Stewart-Whyte, 23, who reportedly converted to Islam and changed his name to Abdul Waheed four months before his arrest, was cleared of all charges.