LONDON: Three Britons have been cleared of helping to plan the 7/7 London suicide attacks on July 7, 2005.
A re-trial jury at Kingston Crown Court found them not guilty of conspiring with the 2005 bombers by organizing a reconnaissance mission to London. Waheed Ali, 25, Sadeer Saleem, 28, and Mohammed Shakil, 32, all from Leeds, admitted knowing the bombers – but denied helping them.
Ali and Shakil were found guilty of a second charge of plotting to attend a terrorism training camp in Pakistan. The men were originally tried in 2008, but the first jury failed to reach verdicts against them. Those now found guilty will be sentenced on Wednesday.
As the verdicts were delivered, Waheed Ali gave a broad smile and Sadeer Saleem wiped his eyes. Mohammed Shakil placed his one hand on the glass partition between the dock and the well of the court and mouthed “thank you” to the jury.
The three men are the only people to face any charges in relation to the 7/7 London bombings. During the three-month retrial, the jury heard that the trio, all from Leeds and all close friends of the bombers had been key members of a tight circle around ringleader Mohammad Sidique Khan.
All three, the jury was told, shared a violent jihadist ideology. Prosecutors in both trials had claimed that the men’s movements in London mirrored a scouting trip by the bombers and included sites ultimately attacked. Neil Flewitt QC had told the trial that the case centered on circumstantial evidence which, he argued, created a compelling picture of guilt.
But the trio maintained throughout the trial – and during tense evidence from the witness box – that they ideologically opposed suicide bombings and had been shocked by the attacks. Counsel for the men told the jury there was no evidence linking them to the bombings and that they were being tried for guilt by association.
Flewitt said a December 2004 trip to London lay at the heart of the case because the three men accompanied by two of the eventual suicide attackers, had used it to visit a number of possible targets.
The prosecution said the group’s movements bore a “striking similarity” to the final targets. But the men told the jury that the trip had been organized because Waheed Ali was planning to leave the country for militant training in Pakistan. He and Sadeer Saleem were going to join the future bombers Mohammed Siddique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, who had already left.
He wanted to say goodbye to his sister, who lived in the capital. The others, the court heard, had simply gone along for the ride.
Ali and the other two defendants had attacked the prosecution as politically motivated and a witch-hunt.
Ali was adamant that he was innocent and taunted the prosecution’s attempts to pin the bombings on him.
At one point during the first trial, he said he was not guilty of plotting with the bombers – but had he been, he would have been unstoppable on 7 July. The three men acquitted were arrested in 2007 amid the largest criminal investigation yet in the UK. But the 2008 trial reached a stalemate after almost three weeks of deliberations by the first jury.
Tens of thousands of police hours have been spent on the four-year investigation – and detectives maintain there are people in the Leeds area who know more that could help their investigation. The defendants accused the police and media of creating a climate of fear in the Beeston area of Leeds.-SANA