In the Media

Muslim men cleared of 7/7 plot but jailed for attending terror camps

PUBLISHED April 30, 2009

Two British Muslims cleared of helping the 7 July bombers were yesterday accused by a judge of betraying the country that had given them a home, as he jailed them for seven years each for planning to attend a terrorist training camp in Pakistan.

Mr Justice Gross told Waheed Ali and Mohammed Shakil their "firm intention" of going to a camp in Baluchistan, which trained people to fight with the Taliban against UK forces in Afghanistan, was no "one-off naive frolic by a pair of dupes".

Sentencing the pair, from Beeston, Leeds, at Kingston crown court, he said those in a democratic society who disagreed with the government's foreign policy had three options: to put up with it, engage in legitimate political debate or leave. "There can be no ? la carte citizenship," the judge said.

"It's not open to you to take the benefits of living in Beeston, of our decent and tolerant society, when you choose, and then to consort with those who choose to kill innocent armed forces. By choosing to attend such a camp you betrayed the country that has given you and your families a home."

He accepted that Ali, 25, and Shakil, 32, did not plan to go on to Afghanistan after the camp, but said they had shown an "admitted, averred and long-term commitment" to jihad overseas. Ali had been to training camps twice before, once with the 7 July mastermind, Mohammed Siddique Khan. In 2001, they went to Pakistan and then close to the Taliban frontline in Afghanistan. Shakil went to a camp in 1999 and in 2003 travelled with Khan to train in Malakand, Pakistan, alongside Omar Khyam, the ringleader of a plot to explode massive fertiliser bombs in the UK.

Ali, who was born in Bangladesh, and Shakil, originally from Pakistan, were found not guilty on Tuesday of conspiring with the four 7 July bombers to cause explosions. They had been accused of carrying out a reconnaissance mission to choose targets in London with two of the attackers, Hasib Hussain and Jermaine Lindsay, seven months before the blasts that killed 52 and injured hundreds.

After eight days of deliberations the jury cleared them unanimously, along with their friend Sadeer Saleem, 28. But they found Ali and Shakil guilty of conspiracy to attend a terrorist training camp.

The pair were arrested as they were about to board a flight to Pakistan in March 2007, carrying a suitcase containing heavy duty torches, Swiss army knives and water purification tablets.

The judge said the they were convicted on "overwhelming evidence".

Ali and Shakil could have been sentenced to up to 10 years. Because they have already spent more than two years in jail on remand, they will be released in less than 18 months.

The trial had heard that about 1,000 young Muslims from Britain visited training camps in Pakistan between 1998 and 2003, a figure Gross said was "disturbingly high".

Hazel Webb, whose daughter Laura, 29, was killed in the 7 July bombings, said she was extremely disappointed that Ali and Shakil had not been given the maximum possible sentence.

The three men were the only people to be tried over the bombings, and senior security officials have conceded that no one is now likely to be brought to justice