Tuesday, May 15, 2007

RICIN TRIAL SUSPECT FINALLY CLEARED: After 19 months of home imprisonment

"An Algerian who was branded a terror suspect after being acquitted in the ricin plot trial, was yesterday cleared of being a threat to Britain's national security, reported the Guardian, today.

"Mr Justice Mitting, chairing the special immigration appeals commission (Siac), ruled that there were no national security grounds to deport Mouloud Sihali back to Algeria as there was no 'evidence or intelligence that he has ever been a principled Islamist extremist.' "

"[In 2005 an] Old Bailey jury cleared Mr Sihali, 30, of taking part in an alleged terrorist conspiracy to spread the poison ricin in London. But at the end of the case he was re-arrested and has lived under virtual house arrest since."

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow consulted with an expert for the defense of the ricin ring in the original trial. During the long case it became clear the alleged London ricin ring, said to be connected to al Qaeda, was a fantasy.

All the British anti-terror operation did was round up many people, some guilty of -- at best -- petty dishonesty, and one bad loner, Kamel Bourgass, who was sent away for life.


At the time of the ricin ring arrests, called Operation Springbourne, news was sensational. (See the infamous chem terror cover of The Mirror, at left.) The US government, with the lamentable presentation of Colin Powell before the UN Security Council, implicated the fictitious ring in a web of al Qaeda operations it claimed stretched from from Iraq to London.

However, a British jury found the UK government's case against the alleged conspirators to be preposterous and freed them, with the exception of one lone bad man, Kamel Bourgass. (Bourgass an Algerian, was convicted in the murder of a British constable, a slaying that took place while he was being apprehended.)

No ricin was ever found, just a handful of castor seeds in a jewelry tin, a paper laden with cherry stones -- parts of a cracked impossible plan to make cyanide. A few foolish recipes on poison making, originally from the neo-Nazi survivalist right in the United States, were also found translated into Arabic and copied to paper from servers on Yahoo.

Nevertheless, no one in the US government has ever answered the question: "Who put the bogus information on the London ricin ring into Colin Powell's presentation?"

When it came time for the US newsmedia to report on the trial, it was caught napping and still largely in compliance with the Bush administration's story line on the war in Iraq.

No US news sources had attended the trial.

As a consequence, the mainstream media simply went to London police sources, who repeated all the rumors and innuendo that hadn't been allowed in the trial. Like stenographers to power, instead of reporting what actually had happened, American journalists reported only what British authorities wished them to pass on.

The result was an appearance, in the States, that a rogue jury had allowed al Qaeda operatives to go free.

But they did not go free.

The British government immediately turned around and slapped the exonerated ricin ring defendants with control orders, an action that made them prisoners in their own homes, awaiting deportation.

The same preposterous evidence that a jury had rejected was used to justify these antics. The men were said to be threats to British national security, the reasons too sensitive to disclose.

"At the time of the ricin trial, [Mr. Sihali] admitted two counts of possessing false passports and received 15 months imprisonment in Belmarsh maximum security prison, continued the Guardian. "But he was cleared of charges connecting him with the ricin plot and was released soon after, as he had already served the time on remand."

"The Siac judges ruled yesterday that he had used false names and documents, fraudulently opened several bank and credit card accounts and falsely claimed state benefits and lied about them at the Old Bailey trial. But they added there was nothing in the evidence to suggest he knew that those he helped were terrorists.

"The judges said they were satisfied that although [Sihali] was unprincipled, he did not engage in anything beyond petty dishonesty. 'Whatever the risk to national security he may have posed in 2002, the risk now is insignificant,' they concluded."

"Mr Sihali's lawyer, Natalia Garcia, said he had had to endure years of imprisonment in Belmarsh and control order-style restrictions on the basis of faulty intelligence and political spin. 'Having cleared his name once in front of a jury ... he had to face the sheer injustice of the same evidence being used against him by the government to try to deport him as a risk to national security ... "

The result of the London ricin trial and the immediate effort to overturn the results of it through subterfuge greatly damaged the reputation of the Blair government. And it created great suspicion with Britain's Muslim community, suspicion which still hinders British anti-terror efforts.

While not addressed in the United States, or even acknowledged in the US mainstream media, the London ricin trial came to be seen in England as part of an effort to fabricate evidence for invading Iraq. It also most certainly contributed to the decided lack of enthusiasm for the Bush adminstration's so-called "global war against terror" among the polity in England. The net result of it all, as well as the perceived lack of proper justice and fairness, was absolutely damaging to national security interests in both countries.

["Mr. Sihali's lawyer] said the deportation proceedings had been brought to 'save face' after the ricin plot acquittals, a plot that she claimed had been used to justify the invasion of Iraq," reported the Guardian.


The original from the Guardian.

UK Terror Trial Finds No TerrorThe first reporting, globally, from the trial and the only accurate material published in the United States.

Botching It. Some explanation of how the US newsmedia ignored or misrepresented the results from the ricin trial.

Also reprinted at The Register. Includes additional notes, as footer, addressing the British media's dreadful coverage of the trial.

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