Monday, September 14, 2009

Airline plot trio get life terms

Three men who plotted to blow up liquid bombs on flights from the UK to North America have been jailed for life, with minimum terms of up to 40 years.

Ringleader Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, was jailed for at least 40 years.

Plot "quartermaster" Assad Sarwar, 29, must serve at least 36 years, while Tanvir Hussain, 28, was jailed for at least 32 years at Woolwich Crown Court.

Their aim was a terrorist outrage to "stand alongside" the 9/11 attacks on the US "in history", the judge said.

Mr Justice Henriques called the plot "the most grave and wicked conspiracy ever proven within this jurisdiction".

The trial heard that at the time of his arrest, Ahmed Ali, of Walthamstow, east London, had identified seven US and Canada-bound flights that were to be attacked within a two-and-a-half-hour period.

The judge said that the plot had "reached an advanced stage in its development", with the men in possession of enough chemicals to produce 20 detonators.

"I'm satisfied that there is every likelihood that this plot would have succeeded but for the intervention of the police and the security service," he said.

"Had this conspiracy not been interrupted, a massive loss of life would almost certainly have resulted - and if the detonation was over land, the number of victims would have been even greater still."

The convicted men displayed no emotion at their sentences, although Ahmed Ali shook his head and appeared angry and frustrated at earlier sentencing remarks from the judge.

"With this plot you sought the attention of the world and now you have it," Mr Justice Henriques told him.

"You have embraced Islamic extremism and it is that burning extremism that has motivated you throughout this conspiracy and is likely to drive you again."

E-mails submitted as evidence in the trial had shown that "the ultimate control of this conspiracy lay in Pakistan", the judge said.

Ahmed Ali, Sarwar, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and Hussain, from Leyton, east London, had been "high-level executives within this country".

A fourth man, Umar Islam, 31, convicted of a more general conspiracy to murder charge, has been given a life sentence and will serve a minimum of 22 years in prison.

The men's arrests in 2006 caused chaos to the global aviation industry and prompted continuing restrictions to the amount of liquids passengers can take on to aircraft.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, is seeking a retrial of three other men for conspiracy to murder, after the jury failed to reach a verdict on this charge against them.

A legal hearing on 5 October will decide whether Ibrahim Savant, 28, Arafat Khan, 28, and Waheed Zaman, 25, will face another trial.(BBC)

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