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Eight Terror Suspects Appear in London Court - 2004-08-18

Eight men facing terror charges, including conspiracy to commit murder, have made their first court appearance in London.

The men briefly appeared before the high security court at the Belmarsh prison in southeast London. They stated their name and date of birth, but none of them entered any pleas. The court ordered them held in custody until next week when they are to appear at London's Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey.

The prosecution is charging the eight men with conspiring to commit murder and plotting to use radioactive material, chemicals or explosives in an attack.

Aged between 19 and 32, the accused have been linked in part to the U.S. terror alert that was issued on August 1 to protect financial institutions in New York, New Jersey, and Washington D.C.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said Tuesday that federal authorities are considering the possible extradition of some of the individuals, but no decision has been made.

According to a U.S. official, one of the suspects, 32-year-old Dhiren Barot, is a senior al-Qaida operative who might have conducted reconnaissance trips in the United States to check out possible targets.

Prosecution lawyer Sue Hemming characterized all eight men as being motivated by a strong and deeply-held ideology and were willing to carry out extreme acts. Ms. Hemming said British police have seized dozens of computers. Examining the thousands of files, she said, will require a lengthy investigation.

Mudassar Arani, the lawyer representing seven of the suspects, refused to comment on the allegations, but said she is filing a complaint against the police for abusing the prisoners.

"The complaints will be pursued further with the police," he said. "A formal complaint has been filed against the police officers."

Earlier this week, Ms. Arani was quoted in the Guardian newspaper as saying her clients were psychologically and physically abused during two weeks of detention following their arrests on August 3. They were arrested one day after the name of a computer expert in Pakistan was published in U.S. newspapers.

Pakistani intelligence sources says the man in question was part of an anti-al-Qaida "sting" operation.

Next week's preliminary hearing at Old Bailey will determine if there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial.