IHT : British judge urges no delay in trial for men accused of plotting to bomb airliners

Friday, October 27, 2006

British judge urges no delay in trial for men accused of plotting to bomb airliners

The Associated Press | October 27, 2006

LONDON A British judge hearing the cases of 13 men accused of plotting to blow up U.S.-bound airliners with liquid explosives urged lawyers Friday to avoid any delays in starting a trial that is already more than a year away.

Prosecutors said the process of collecting evidence was likely to take longer than first expected.

The trial is tentatively set to open early in 2008, but prosecuting attorney Colin Gibbs acknowledged that the "size, scale and nature" of the case made some delays inevitable, and that date could be pushed back.

"We must get this trial on," Judge David Calvert-Smith said at a hearing in Central Criminal Court.

"Large sections of the population would want to know if this was a storm in a teacup or a serious danger to hundreds of thousands of people."

Hugh Mullan, representing one of the men charged with conspiracy to murder, said little evidence had been received by defense lawyers. "Already things are slipping out of control," he said. The prosecution has been forced to push back dates agreed at a prior hearing for evidence to be passed to defense lawyers.

Gibbs said that more than 500 witness statements alone had been collected from surveillance operatives, while scientists detailed with analyzing materials seized or found near defendants' homes had yet to provide any firm time frame about when they would be finished.

Police arrested a total of 25 people in raids across Britain on Aug. 9-10, charging 17 of them after uncovering a suspected plot to assemble and detonate improvised explosives on board as many as 10 U.S.-bound planes.

A drastic crackdown on security which followed the arrests snarled air traffic across the Atlantic and caused frustrating delays for thousands of passengers.

The alleged plot was described by investigators as having the potential to be on a similar scale to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Eleven were charged Aug. 21 with conspiracy to murder and preparing acts of terrorism.

They are Umar Islam, 28; Waheed Zaman, 22; Abdullah Ali, 25; Tanvir Hussain, 25; Arafat Khan, 25; Ibrahim Savant, 25; Assad Sarwar, 26; Adam Khatib, 19; Nabeel Hussain, 22; Mohammed Gulzar, 25; and Mohammed Uddin, 35.

Two other men were charged with preparing terrorism: Usman Mohammed Saddique, 24, and Donald Stewart Whyte, 21, who is also charged with three firearms offenses.

Ahmed Ali, 24, was charged with failing to disclose information, and a 17-year-old male, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was charged with possessing material that could be used to prepare a terrorist act.

Gibbs said the two could come to trial in May, but that would be discussed at a further hearing Dec. 8.