Tre av de hovedmistenkte som planla å sprenge ni transatlantiske fly med flytende bomber, ble 7. september dømt til 40 års fengsel. Deres arrestasjon i august 2006 førte umiddelbart til en av de strengeste innskjerpelsene i flytrafikken – forbudet mot å ta flytende væske om bord.
Alle lever med konsekvensen av terrorplanen som aldri ble realisert. Noen oppfatter kontrollen som overdrevet, og for mange er den en irritasjonskilde. Men de fleste oppfatter den som betryggende. Man kan stole på at ingen bringer en bombe om bord.
Men ser man på opprullingen av saken og dens behandling i rettsapparatet, er det mange spørsmål som dukker opp: politiet har en uhyre krevende jobb, og det er vanskelig å nå gjennom. Terroristene vet å utnytte systemet og de har forsvarere, både juridiske og politiske som taler deres sak. Man skulle tro det dreide seg om vanlige kriminelle, og ikke folk som planlegger å sprenge verden i lufta. Hvor lenge kan samfunnet leve med at tvilen kommer tiltalte til gode, også i terrorsaker?
I saken om de åtte terrortiltalte måtte politiet aksjonere før tiden, og de tiltalte ble frikjent for terror i første rettsinstans, til myndighetenes store sjokk. Saken ble umiddelbart anket, og nå ble tre dømt etter de alvorligste tiltalene. Men tre ble altså frifunnet, selv om de hadde innspilt etter-døden videoer, og fremdeles går en kjent Al Qaida-kontakt løs i London.
Saken mot de åtte har tatt tre år og kostet skattebetalerne 600 millioner kroner.
Den illustrerer hvorfor terrorsaker er så frustrerende. Rettssystemet stiller strenge krav til bevis, som noen ganger ikke kan presenteres fordi det vil kompromittere kilden, eller fordi kilden nekter å utlevere materialet: i dette tilfellet måtte en amerikansk domstol pålegge yahoo å utlevere epost mellom de UK-pågrepne og kontaktene i Pakistan. De snakker i kode, og domstolen må overbevises om at de egentlig mener vannstoffhyperoksyd når de skriver aftershave.
Britisk politi følte i utgangspunktet at de hadde kontroll, men ble nødt for å gå til aksjon lenge før de ønsket, fordi amerikanerne utvirket arrestasjon av gruppas «føringsoffiser» i Pakistan, Rashid Rauf.
Da Det hvite hus fikk høre om de flytende bombene gikk alarmen. Man brøt løftet om å stole på britisk politi. Da Rauf ble arrestert måtte også britene slå til.
Bevismaterialet man satt på syntes likevel overveldende: seks av gruppa hadde spilt inn selvmordsvideoer, der de lovte britene «død for død».
The evidence presented in both trials, including martyrdom videos recorded by six of the defendants, appeared overwhelming.
Hovedpersonen var Abdulla Ahmed Ali, han var blitt overvåket siden slutten av 2005.
Abdulla Ahmed Ali
Ali had been under surveillance since late in 2005 when he was identified as a member of a circle of young British radicals gathered around a charismatic East London «missionary», believed to be an al-Qaeda recruiter.
That man, who has been designated a terrorist by the United Nations but who lives freely in Britain, had connections with terrorist cells, including the group led by Muktar Said Ibrahim that tried to carry out suicide bombings in London on July 21, 2005.
Utpekt terrorist på frifot
Denne mannen, som altså selv FN har utpekt som terrorist, befinner seg fortsatt på frifot i Storbritannia. Han har fått sine midler frosset av staten, og saken hans kommer opp i den nyetablerte høyesterett om litt. I saken omtales mannen som G, og han krever at restriksjonene mot ham oppheves.
The terrorist suspect, who will be referred to in court as G, has been designated as an al-Qaeda supporter by the United Nations and Interpol. The man, in his 20s, an alleged associate of some of the convicted airline bomb plotters, is seeking the lifting of a government order freezing his assets.
G, from East London, is one of five men challenging terrorist financial orders, which freeze their accounts and require them to apply to the Treasury for living expenses.
The others can be identified only as A, K, M and Q. They won their claim in the High Court last year, but the Appeal Court overturned that ruling.
Their case has been selected to be the first before the new court because of its legal significance. It touches on how UN resolutions are translated into British law and will be heard by a bench of seven of the country’s most senior judges.
G was seen during surveillance in the airline plot investigation meeting Abdulla Ahmed Ali and Assad Sarwar, who were sentenced to life imprisonment last week. He was also filmed for a TV documentary in East London greeting Umar Islam, who was sentenced to a minimum of 22 years for conspiracy to murder.
The man denies any involvement in terrorism but is accused in security files, seen by The Times, as having arranged travel to Pakistan for individuals seeking jihad training. He is also alleged to have met and stayed with senior al-Qaeda figures.
(From left to right) Tanvir Hussain, Abdulla Ahmed Ali and Assad Sarwar were convicted of plotting to blow up passenger planes with liquid bombs that could be concealed inside soft drink bottles
Ali, 28, of Walthamstow, northeast London, was a frequent visitor to Pakistan, claiming to be engaged in charity work and earthquake relief. In reality he was attending training camps and receiving instruction in bombmaking.
When he returned to Britain after one lengthy trip in June 2006, counter-terrorism officers searched his hold luggage at Heathrow. They found a large quantity of batteries and packets of a high-sugar powdered drink known as Tang, both items regarded as useful in making bombs.
The intelligence judgment on Ali was that he had moved from being a fundraiser to being engaged in attack planning in Britain. The surveillance operation was stepped up and changes in his behaviour were noted.
He told friends that he and his wife, with whom he had a young son, were separating. That was the explanation he gave to borrow £138,000 in cash to buy a flat at 386a Forest Road, Walthamstow.
Ali brukte pengene til å kjøpe en leilighet som ble senter for operasjonen. Politiet fikk installert overvåkingskameraer og mikrofoner. Alt som foregikk ble filmet.
Over the next few weeks, they watched as Ali and Tanvir Hussain began experimenting with making bottle bombs — draining soft-drink bottles with a syringe then replacing the contents with an explosive hydrogen peroxide mixture.
Disposable cameras would hide the detonators that were to be made using the batteries Ali had brought from Pakistan. Unlike European-made batteries, those from Pakistan could be easily opened and refilled with HMTD, a high explosive.
Øverst fra venstre: Waheed Zaman, Ibrahim Savant, Arafat Waheed Khan, Umar Islam.
Nederst fra venstre: Tanvir Hussain, Donald Stewart-Whyte, Abdulla Ahmed Ali og Assad Sarwar.
Six of the men on trial — Ali, Hussain, Waheed Zaman, Umar Islam, Ibrahim Savant and Arafat Khan — proclaimed their hatred for the West. They would later claim that the videos were hoaxes, meant as protests against British involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Zaman, who was cleared of the airline plot, told the camera: «I have not been brainwashed, I am educated to a very high standard . . . You will not feel any peace or security in your lands. As you kill us, you will be killed. As you bomb us, you will be bombed.»
The videos were to be distributed by Assad Sarwar, 29, another frequent visitor to Pakistan, who was the cell’s quartermaster. In the summer of 2006 he was acquiring materials for the manufacture of bombs, criss-crossing the country in search of hydrogen peroxide.
Man kan ikke la være å spørre hvordan en domstol ville stilt seg hvis det var innfødte europeere som hadde spilt inn slike hatvideoer i forbindelse med konkrete bombeplaner, for ikke å snakke om reaksjonen blant muslimer over hele verden.
Al Qaid-kontakt på besøk
As the planning and preparations intensified, a suspected al-Qaeda agent arrived from overseas to galvanise the group. Taking care never to visit the bomb factory, he issued orders by phone and held clandestine meetings with Ali. The influence of terrorist overlords based in Pakistan was also revealed in e-mail exchanges between Ali and Sarwar. The e-mails were monitored by surveillance teams but not introduced in the first trial because of the ban on using intercepted material. But the importance of the second trial made it vital that they be brought forward, and the intercept ban was circumvented by a court order in California requiring Yahoo! to disclose them.
Ali and Sarwar had Yahoo! accounts in false names and many of their replies came from someone referred to as Paps — believed to have been the alias of a key figure in Pakistan.
(Paps skal ha vært Rashid Rauf)
The e-mails made references to new recruits to the cell, the acquisition of hydrogen peroxide and to a «trial run» to test airport security. This e-mail traffic, and the prospect of a dummy run, caused panic among the American authorities who put pressure on Pakistan to find and arrest the man. London was kept in the dark as the operation was under way and police had to swoop overnight on August 9-10 before the plotters learnt of his arrest and had time to react.
Ali and Sarwar were arrested in the car park of Walthamstow Town Hall. In his pocket, Ali had an address book in which he had written a «to do» list before he could embark on his murderous mission and details of soft drinks in which liquid explosives could be disguised. He also had a memory stick detailing flights to the United States and Canada. He had highlighted seven leaving Heathrow within three hours and bound for Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, San Francisco, New York and Washington. All the aircraft would have been in the air, some possibly coming in to land, when the bombers detonated their devices. The death toll would have exceeded the 3,000 killed on September 11. ..
Police found a disk containing some martyrdom messages in Sarwar’s car. The rest were found at his home in High Wycombe, where he lived with his parents.
Searches in Buckinghamshire continued for months with police combing two areas of woodland that Sarwar had been seen entering. In November 2006 those searches uncovered 38 bottles of hydrogen peroxide, the crucial bombmaking chemical.
Bare gjennomletingen i skogen kostet 8 millioner pund.
Man må spørre hva som skal til for å bli dømt når en ser på frikjennelsene.
One defendant was cleared of the airline plot but convicted of conspiracy to murder. Another was cleared of all terrorist charges. Three others who recorded messages were found not guilty of the most serious charges.
At last year’s trial a man alleged to be a key al-Qaeda figure, who arrived from Pakistan to finalise the plot, was also cleared. He now lives under the terms of a strict control order.
Security sources admit that another suspect who was under surveillance remains a free man in East London.
Kombinasjonen av streng rettspraksis, ikke overfor de mistenkte, men politiets bevisførsel, internasjonale konvensjoner som beskytter de mistenkte, den store pakistanske kommuniteten i Storbritannia som gjør det mulig å skjule terrorkontakter i Pakistan, så er konklusjonen at kontrollen av flytende flasker om bord i fly er en stor illusjon.