Accessibility links

Breaking News

Britain Convicts Terrorist Suspect, Clears 8 Others

Britain has convicted an Algerian man, and cleared eight other suspects in the country's biggest terrorist case since the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

Court officials have revealed the conviction of 31-year-old Kamel Bourgass in the high-profile case, which in 2003 prompted public fears of an imminent terrorist attack on Britain.

The case began with a police raid in January of 2003, in which traces of ricin poison were found in a North London apartment.

Stephen Oake
Police carried out anti-terrorist sweeps around the country, detaining scores of suspects. Bourgass was captured in Manchester in a raid in which he stabbed to death Detective Constable Stephen Oake. He received a life sentence for the murder last June.

Last Friday, a jury found Bourgass guilty of conspiracy to use poisons or explosives to cause injury, disruption or fear, and he has been given a 17-year sentence. A judge on Wednesday lifted media restrictions on reporting the murder and conspiracy convictions.

Defense lawyers are emphasizing that eight other defendants - one Libyan and the rest Algerian - have been cleared of any wrongdoing. Solicitor Julian Hayes represented one of the men whose names are withheld.

"He has been a pawn in the whole government spin, the whole movement that existed in this country and in government circles to feed on the fear that the public have had since 9/11," he said.

British Home Secretary Charles Clarke rejects any suggestion the government is exaggerating the threat for political ends.

"What this trial shows, if anything, is that there is a terrorist threat, that there are people who are determined to try and attack us and attack all of our basic means of operating in our civilization and we should protect ourselves against them," he said.

Prosecutors had said Bourgass was trained at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan and had contact with the other defendants at Finsbury Park mosque in North London, which had been a meeting place for anti-Western activists.