Monday, January 15, 2007

War on Terror: Terror trials & hangings

'Failed bombers' on trial, but at least 30 terror plots still threaten the UK

Six men have appeared before a court in London charged with terror offences. The charges relate to failed terrorist attacks on 21st July 2005. Media reports since then have only referred to 4 individuals. One had fled to Italy and was subsequently extradited. Two others were arrested after an armed siege in north London.
On this, the first day of the trial, the jury was told how the suspects had assembled their devices from chapatti flour and chemicals. The prosecution showed videos of bomb replicas being exploded. The six men, Muktar Ibrahim Said, Manfo Asiedu, Yassin Hassan Omar, Hussain Osman, Ramzi Mohammed and Adel Yahar, are charged with conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to cause explosions [BBC]. Sky News also reported that one of the individuals had fled to Birmingham wearing a burka. The trial at Woolwich Crown Court is expected to last up to six weeks.

It has been a week of trials against those taking part in terror related offences. In Germany, Mounir El Motassadeq has been sentenced to 15 years for his part in the 9/11 conspiracy [BBC]. The sentence comes after two failed by authorities to secure a conviction. The jailing of Motassadeq did not create as much press coverage as might have been expected. Fox News in the US and CNN had only scant coverage. The BBC and Sky News also lacked the coverage of this high profile suspect, the second suspect to have been connected to the terror attacks on 11th September 2001. Motassadeq has appealed the conviction so far the Germany’s high court has refused to hear the case [Spiegel]. It expected that the Moroccan’s defence team will launch another appeal both to the German courts and the European Court of Justice.

Today two of Saddam Hussein’s co-defendants met their fate. Saddam’s half brother and former head of the secret police, Barzan al-Tikriti, and Awad Hamad al-Bandar were both hung early Monday morning. One was said to have been decapitated as he fell through the trap door. As to whether there was an orderly assembly at this execution can only be speculated. Strict controls to prevent unauthorised filming will prevent the release of footage to further embarrass the majority Shi’ite government.
By the afternoon some journalists had been shown the official video of the execution. A short silent video showed the bodies dropping at the end of the hangman’s noose. The BBC’s Andrew North said the video showed the men both dressed in orange boiler suits and wearing hoods dropping through the trapdoor. Barzan’s head was said to have been decapitated as he plummeted through the trapdoor, apparently flying off across the room. Barzan al-Tikriti, Saddam’s half brother, and Awad Hamad al-Bandar were both convicted for their part in the killing of 148 Shia in the 1980s.
CNN described the video as gruesome but had not viewed it themselves, saying that only a select group of journalists and officials had seen the film. The execution of the two men is unlikely to quell the increasing violence in the country, however. Indeed the revelations that one was decapitated may only serve to increase sectarian tensions. The debate over capital punishment be also be rekindled. Amnesty International, who maintain its opposition to the death sentence, have not yet commented on this high profile case. Condoleezza Rice has said she was “disappointed” in the way Saddam’s aides were hanged, adding that she had hoped greater dignity had been afforded to them. There are 69 countries worldwide who implement the death penalty [BBC]. Meanwhile the threat to the UK mainland remains high. Fueled by events in Iraq, homegrown terrorists are posing a greater risk to UK and US interests. And the efforts by authorities to catch them before they act is being stepped up. According to MI5, Britain's security agency, there are some 30 terror plots currently being investigated [BBC].

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