By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, September 5, 2006
LONDON, Sept. 4 -- Suspects in an alleged plot to bomb U.S.-bound jetliners are unlikely to face trial before 2008, a prosecutor said in court Monday.
Prosecutor Colin Gibbs, citing the large amount of evidence in what police describe as a conspiracy involving at least 11 people, told a judge in London's Old Bailey courthouse that the trial could start as late as March 2008.
Defense attorneys expressed concern that the suspects might be held in jail without bail for more than 18 months before trial.
Eight suspects accused of conspiracy to commit murder, in an alleged plot to smuggle liquid explosives onto jetliners and detonate them in flight, were ordered held without bail until their next court appearance on Sept. 18. Three other suspects facing the same charges are also scheduled to appear in court that day. Police have not announced whether they will bring charges against five other people still being held following raids last month.
The suspects in court Monday, who appeared via video link from Belmarsh prison, are Ahmed Abdullah Ali, 25, Tanvir Hussain, 25, Umar Islam, 28, Arafat Waheed Khan, 25, Assad Ali Sarwar, 26, Adam Khatib, 19, Ibrahim Savant, 25 and Waheed Zaman, 25.
Also Monday, in an unrelated investigation, police in Sussex issued a statement saying they had sent officers and staff at least 15 times for diversity training at an Islamic school currently being searched by anti-terrorism officers from Scotland Yard.
The Jameah Islameah school, set on 54 acres southeast of London, has been the subject of an intensive search by scores of police since Saturday in an operation in which police arrested 14 people on suspicion of terrorism-related offenses. British news media have reported that police suspect the school may have been used by radicals trying to recruit and train violent extremists.
"The school has been used by officers and staff undergoing advanced training for their role as diversity trainers to the rest of the workforce," the police statement said. "This has involved a series of one-day visits to the school by groups of two or three trainers on up to 15 occasions over more than a year."
Police said training at the school helps officers "improve our knowledge and awareness of the many diverse communities that we serve in Sussex." Police said they were "not embarrassed" by the situation, "but inevitably this will have to be reviewed in the light of the weekend's events."
Police are still questioning the 14 people arrested in that case. They have not been identified, and no charges have been brought, yet.
According to widespread reports in the British media, one of those arrested was Abu Abdullah, 42, a close associate of Abu Hamza Masri, a radical Islamic preacher who was sentenced to seven years in prison in February for inciting racial hatred with his sermons.
The Sunday Times on Aug. 27 published an interview with Abu Abdullah in which he said he would "love" to kill British troops in Afghanistan, called the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks a "deserved punch in the nose" for the United States and described President Bush as "a scalp that needs to be taken."
Britain earlier this year enacted legislation making it a crime to "glorify" terrorism; legal experts here say police may be considering using the new law against Abu Abdullah.