Suspects charged in alleged jetliner plot appear at London court
LONDON – Eleven suspects charged in an alleged plot to blow up U.S.-bound airliners appeared in court for the first time Tuesday, and the eight men who faced the most serious charges were ordered held until next month as detectives press on with their investigation.The accused were brought into a courtroom in groups, and peered out at the packed room from behind thick glass that stretched almost to the top of the high ceiling.Each wore gray sweat pants and white jail-issued T-shirts or sweat shirts, with the exception of Cossar Ali, 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, the mother of an 8-month-old boy, also was the only suspect to request bail during Monday’s proceedings, which was denied by judge Timothy Workman.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 – were ordered held until a second court appearance on Sept. 4.A dozen family members and a swarm of journalists squeezed into the courtroom. Each suspect was accompanied by a guard and stood in the dock. As they were led away, Khan and Islam smiled toward the public gallery.Cossar Ali, 24, who is married to defendant Ahmed Ali, and 24-year-old Mehran Hussein, were ordered to appear on Aug. 29. Both were 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 that could be used to prepare a terrorist act, also was ordered back in court next week.The Crown Prosecution Service said the suspects probably would go on trial sometime in 2007. Because of the number of suspects, proceedings may be split into two or more trials, which could last many months.Another person was released Monday without charge, while 11 others remain in custody and have not been charged. Investigators have until Wednesday to decide if they will be charged, released or to ask for more time to investigate.”Their position is being assessed on a regular basis with a view to considering the need to keep them in detention,” said Susan Hemming, who heads the Crown Prosecution Service’s Counter-Terrorism Division. “The evidential picture is continuously developing.”Nine of those charged were from London, according to a Bank of England list of suspects whose assets were frozen following the arrests. Two were 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.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-Qaida.Pakistani officials have linked people arrested there over the alleged conspiracy to al-Qaida 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.His brother, Tayib, who was videotaped at a grocery story in Birmingham just hours before he was arrested Aug. 10, was not among those charged but was among those remaining in custody in Britain.After British officials announced they had foiled the alleged plot on Aug. 10, tighter security was immediately imposed at airports around the world. Passengers were banned from carrying hand luggage and liquids onto planes.Britain’s air transportation network, in particular, was plunged into chaos, with long lines jamming airport terminals and many airline flights canceled. By Sunday, airport officials said the situation was busy but had returned to normal.
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