Three men accused of helping suicide bombers who killed 52 people in a 2005 attack on London’s transportation system were acquitted Tuesday of the most serious charges they faced, a second defeat for prosecutors in the case.
The jury found Waheed Ali, Mohammed Shakil and Sadeer Saleem not guilty of carrying out a reconnaissance mission to help the four bombers who boarded three subway trains and a bus with homemade explosives July 7, 2005.
Ali and Shakil were convicted of conspiring to attend a terrorist training camp in Pakistan, a lesser charge, and were scheduled to be sentenced today.
The verdicts ended a three-month retrial of the men after a trial last year resulted in a hung jury. The three have been the only people charged in the attacks.
Under British double jeopardy laws, any further trial of the same defendants would have to be based on new evidence, a spokesperson for the Crown Prosecution Service said, adding that it was “technically possible but very rare.”
Commenting in the Times of London, Andy Hayman, assistant commissioner for London’s Metropolitan Police from 2005 to ’07, wrote that the trial “probably represents the last throw of the dice for the police investigation in 7/7. It is frustrating . . . knowing that people who aided and abetted the murders of 52 innocent people remain at large.”
The accused, British Muslims who come from the Beeston area of Leeds in northern England, acknowledged being friends of the four men who carried out the bombings, but they denied charges of conspiracy to cause an explosion. They were accused of scouting the capital for possible targets with two of the four bombers during a trip to London in December 2004.
The jury was shown homemade videos and heard evidence from secretly recorded conversations that showed the accused were close friends of the four bombers: Mohamed Sidique Khan, Shahzad Tanweer, Hasib Hussain, and Germaine Lindsay.
Ali, 25, and Shakil, 32, were arrested at Manchester airport in 2007. They were about to board a plane for Pakistan, where, according to prosecutors, they planned to attend a terrorist training camp.
However, the prosecution failed to provide convincing enough evidence for the jury to convict Ali, Shakil, and the 28-year-old Saleem of conspiracy to cause explosions.
Susan Hemming, head of the Crown Prosecution Service’s counter-terrorism section, defended the decision to try the men a second time.
“Although there was no direct evidence that these men were involved in the terrible events of 7/7, we felt there was sufficient evidence to show they were involved in reconnaissance and planning for an attack of some kind, and it was in the public interest that such a serious matter should be put before a court,” she said. “For the same reason, the decision to go for a retrial following the hung jury in the first trial was correct.”
“We would like to pay tribute to the victims and family and friends of those who were killed or injured in the attacks of July 7, 2005, who have waited patiently until now for a conclusion,” Hemming added.
There have been no convictions for the bombings, despite police assertions that there must be other conspirators at large.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner John McDowall, head of the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism command, called for anyone with information about the attacks to come forward. “While those directly responsible for the bombings died in the attacks, we remain convinced that others must have been involved in the planning,” he said to the BBC.
Some family members of the victims said they were still looking for answers and repeated past demands for a government-sponsored public inquiry.
“For almost four years, we have been asking for an inquiry into what led up to 7/7,” Graham Foulkes, father of one victim, told the BBC. “We are not looking for people to blame, but we also know that we have not been told the whole truth. We believe that crucial lessons need to be learned.”
Stobart writes for The Times.