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Britain Indicts 8 on Charges of Terrorism

The suspects are accused of conspiring to commit murder and having papers said to be plans for attacking financial institutions in the U.S.

August 18, 2004|Janet Stobart | Times Staff Writer

LONDON — Eight suspected terrorists were charged Tuesday with conspiracy to commit murder and possession of documents said to be plans for attacks on prominent financial institutions in the United States, Scotland Yard announced.

A ninth was charged with possessing an illegal weapon.

The nine men were among 13 arrested Aug. 3 in raids in northern and southern England.

The charges followed arrests in Pakistan, which were cited by U.S. officials as one reason for issuing terrorism alerts for the New York Stock Exchange and Citigroup Inc. offices in New York, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington and the Prudential Financial Inc. building in New Jersey.

The alert status in the U.S. was raised Aug. 1 after Pakistan arrested several suspected Al Qaeda militants, including Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, a computer technician and communications coordinator.

Plans of what officials said were potential targets in the United States were found in his computer materials.

U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft praised the British charges, saying officials would decide whether to bring U.S. charges as well.

"Working with our allies, we will continue to take every measure to protect the people of the United States and safeguard their liberties, in this time of heightened terrorist threat," Ashcroft said in a statement.

Of the 13 men arrested in Britain, two were released and two were questioned on non-terrorism-related accusations.

One of those four was held on immigration charges. The remaining nine were remanded to London's high-security Paddington Green police station and then taken to Belmarsh Prison.

Authorities identified the men charged under the Terrorism Act of 2000 and the Criminal Law act as Dhiren Barot, 32, Nadeem Tarmohamed, 26, and Qaisar Shaffi, 25, all of Willesden, north London; Zia ul Haq, 25, of Paddington, London; Omar Abdul Rehman, 20, of Bushey, northwest of London; Abul Aziz Jalil, 31, of Luton, northwest of London; Junade Feroze, 28, of Blackburn, in northern England; and Mohammed Naveed Bhatti, 24.

Under the Criminal Law act, the men were charged with conspiracy "together with other persons unknown to murder other persons" and to "commit public nuisance by the use of radioactive materials, toxic gases, chemicals and/or explosives to cause disruption, fear or injury."

Under the Terrorism Act of 2000, they were charged with possession of documents or records of information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

Barot, who used several aliases, including Abu Eisa al Hindi, has been called a senior Al Qaeda operative in numerous published reports. He and Tarmohamed are alleged to have had reconnaissance plans for the Prudential Building in Newark.

This was a document "containing information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism contrary to Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000," according to the charges.

Barot was also said to have had two notebooks with information on explosives, poisons, chemicals and "related matters containing information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism."

Shaffi was also said to hold an excerpt of a terrorist handbook with information on chemicals and recipes and information on explosives "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism."

After their arrest, the men were held for 14 days, the maximum time permitted under the Terrorism Act.

They are scheduled to appear in Magistrates Court today; the court adjoins the maximum-security Belmarsh Prison.

The lawyer for seven of the men, Mudassar Arani, said her clients were psychologically and physically abused by police during their detention.

According to a report in Monday's Guardian newspaper, she said the men were kept in solitary confinement for two weeks.

"It's an abuse -- detention is not there to psychologically break them," she said.

She also alleged that only two of the men faced specific accusations, including that they were members of the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

Police refused to confirm this or any reports that Barot is a leading Al Qaeda member.

The ninth man, who was charged with possessing an illegal weapon, was identified as Matthew Monks of Sudbury, London.

During their detention, the men were visited by Dawud Noiba, chairman of the Council for the Welfare of Muslim Prisoners, according to the Guardian.

The men are all believed to be British, a police spokesman said.

Britain has arrested more than 600 people on terrorism charges since Sept. 11, 2001. Of those, about 100 have been charged with terrorism offenses and 14 convicted. The rest have been released.

Times staff writer Josh Meyer contributed to this report from Washington.

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