Airline Terror Suspects in London Court

Tuesday , August 22, 2006




Eleven suspects charged in the plot to blow up U.S.-bound airliners appeared in court for the first time Tuesday, as British detectives questioned others in custody and worked to develop evidence to back their claim of thwarting a global terror plot.

The accused were brought into a courtroom in groups, and peered out at the packed room from behind thick glass, which stretched almost to the top of the high ceiling.

Each wore only gray sweat pants and white jail-issued T-shirts or sweat shirts, with the exception of Cossar Ali, the mother of an 8-month-old boy and the only woman charged, who wore a vibrant, royal blue hijab and glasses. They spoke only to confirm their names, addresses and dates of birth.

Ali was also the only suspect to request bail during Monday's proceedings, which was denied by judge Timothy Workman.

CountryWatch: United Kingdom

The eight men charged with the most serious offenses of conspiracy to murder and preparing to commit terrorism — Tanvir Hussain, 25, Ahmed Ali, 25, Umar Islam, 28, Arafat Khan, 25, Assad Ali Sarwar, 26, Adam Khatib, 19, Ibrahim Savant, 25 and Waheed Zaman, 22 — will next appear Sept. 4.

Cossar Ali, who is married to defendant Ahmed Ali, and 24-year-old Mehran Hussein, were ordered to appear Aug. 29. Both are charged with failing to disclose information that could help prevent a terrorist act. Their lawyers told the court that their clients would be pleading not guilty.

A 17-year-old male, who cannot be named for legal reasons and who is charged with possessing material which could be used to prepare a terrorist act, also returns to court next week.

Another person was released Monday without charge, while 11 still in custody have not yet been charged. Investigators have until Wednesday to decide if they will be charged, released or to ask for more time to investigate.

Nine of those charged are from London, according to a Bank of England list of suspects whose assets were frozen following the arrests. Two are from suburban High Wycombe, 30 miles northwest of London.

More than 8,000 items of data storage, such as compact discs, DVDs and memory sticks, were found. Maps of Afghanistan, suicide notes from willing terrorists and books on explosives also were seized, officials said.

Investigators said the evidence was still being examined in minute detail, including fingerprints, DNA and handwriting.

British officials also confirmed that the plot involved the manufacture of explosives, which would then be assembled and detonated on board airliners.

Recent British terrorism cases suggest justice will move slowly.

The suspects probably will go on trial sometime next year, prosecutors said. Because of the number of suspects, proceedings may be split into two or more trials that could last many months.

Seven men accused of plotting to set off bombs in England went on trial in March — two years after their arrest. The case continues.

Five men charged with conspiring to murder commuters in connection with a failed plot to bomb the London Underground and a bus on July 21, 2005, are due to stand trial in October.

Investigators did not reveal if the alleged airline plot suspects were linked to Al Qaeda.

Pakistani officials have linked people arrested there over the alleged conspiracy to Al Qaeda militants. In a town near the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, law enforcement authorities continued to interrogate Rashid Rauf, a Briton of Pakistani descent, over his alleged key role in the plot, officials said.

Rauf's brother, Tayib, was not among those charged but remained in custody in Britain.