Doctor faces life for failed UK attacks

December 17, 2008 12:00 am

, LONDON, Dec 17 – An Iraqi doctor found guilty of trying to murder hundreds of people in failed car bombings in London and Glasgow faces a life behind bars as he awaits sentencing here on Wednesday.

Bilal Abdulla, 29, who was born in Britain but raised in Iraq, was also found guilty at Woolwich Crown Court in southeast London on Tuesday of conspiracy to cause explosions for the failed attacks in June 2007.

During the trial, he admitted he was a "terrorist" but accused the British government of terrorism too for invading Iraq — and maintained he was not trying to kill or injure anyone.

His co-defendant Mohammed Asha, a 28-year-old Jordanian neurologist, was cleared on both counts.

Asha’s lawyers had argued that he would not have fitted in with the alleged attackers because he was too geeky, arguing that Abdulla and another man looked down on him because of his concentration on his work.

After 24 hours and 15 minutes of deliberations, the jury of seven women and five men rejected Abdulla’s defence, but found Asha to have known nothing of his friend’s plans.

"Bilal Abdulla planned to murder many innocent people when he set out to attack central London," said Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner John McDowall, the head of the force’s Counter-Terrorism Command.

"It was more luck than judgment that their repeated attempts to detonate the two car bombs by mobile phone failed."

Abdulla, who is expected to be sentenced at 1000 GMT, showed no reaction as the verdicts were read out.

In court, he had said he felt no hatred towards individuals in Britain, and had initially supported the ousting of Saddam Hussein after the US-led invasion in 2003. But he was shocked by the brutality of coalition forces thereafter.

His lawyer Jim Sturman said after the verdict that Abdulla wanted to "emphasise that these offences were motivated by politics, not religion".

"This is not a case where his intention was driven by religious faith but by his frustration with what he saw as an unjust war," he said outside the court.

Asha, meanwhile, faces deportation to Jordan.

His father Jamil Asha said his family was "extremely happy" with the verdict, telling AFP: "We were 100 percent sure that our son is innocent. I can’t express my joy… thank God for this."

Police discovered two Mercedes cars loaded with bombs made of gas cylinders, petrol and nails left outside the Tiger Tiger nightclub and a bus stop in a bid to target late-night revellers in London’s West End on June 29, 2007.

The devices failed to explode because of faulty connections in mobile phones being used as detonators and the smothering effect of petrol and gas fumes, jurors heard.

The next day a Jeep carrying a similar deadly cargo was crashed into the front of the main terminal at Glasgow airport in Scotland in an alleged suicide attack.

Hundreds of travellers fled in terror after the vehicle caught fire and thick black smoke filled the terminal, although there was no explosion.

Abdulla, who along with Asha worked in Britain’s state-run National Health Service, was arrested at the scene after throwing petrol bombs and fighting with police. He tried to escape but was tackled by onlookers.

Asha was arrested hours later as he travelled on a motorway with his wife and young son.

The attacks prompted British security services to raise the national terror threat level to "critical", the highest of five levels, on June 30.

Also detained at Glasgow airport was Kafeel Ahmed, the driver of the blazing Jeep, who died a month later from the critical burns he suffered.

His brother Sabeel was found guilty by a British court in April of withholding information from police about the failed attacks, and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.

He was deported to his home country India in May after being released from custody due to the amount of time he had already served in jail.

The only other man charged in connection with the plot — Indian doctor Mohammed Haneef, who was detained in Australia — was exonerated by a court.


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