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Bail Denied to 3 Men Jailed in Alleged British Terror Plot - 2002-11-18

A British judge has denied bail to three men of North African origin jailed as suspected terrorists. Authorities are playing down media reports that the suspects planned to attack London's subway system.

The three suspects appeared in a London criminal court Monday for a 15 minute session. The judge remanded them into custody without bail until their next hearing on December 16.

The men gave their names as Rabah Chehaj-Bias, 21, and Karim Kadouri, 33, both of north London. The third suspect, 35-year-old Rabah Kadre, said he has no fixed address.

They were charged under Britain's anti-terrorism law of possessing articles for the preparation, instigation and commission of terrorism. No further details were presented in court. The men were arrested on November 9.

There have been a flurry of media reports that the trio planned to attack London's underground transit system with a poison gas, possibly cyanide.

However, the government is playing down such speculation and lawyers for the suspects are complaining their clients cannot get a fair trial because of media hysteria.

Lawyer Gareth Peirce has written to the attorney general about her complaints. "My concerns are that there has been a flagrant, deliberate, knowing contempt of court designed to prejudice any hope of a fair trial," he said.

While the hearing was under way, a spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair told reporters there is still a heightened terrorist threat and public vigilance is important.

However, the spokesman stood behind remarks of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who said reports of a possible gas attack on the subway were part of what he termed "the fertile imagination of the press."

The Blair spokesman said that if there was a credible threat of terrorist attack, the government would not hesitate to shut down the subway, which carries more than three million passengers a day.