Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Ricin Plot, the Observer, Times and Independent

Bombs in Madrid, Istanbul and Bali and ricin in London:

Security services organised the Madrid bombs?
Turkey, terror bombs, the CIA and Mossad
The Ricin plot, the Guardian, the BBC's Mark Easton, the and Le Monde


Mary Riddel, writing in the Observer about the Ricin trial, reminds us about the story of Auntie Annie's 'bomb factory'.

According to the police, Annie Maguire taught her small children how to make bombs in her Kilburn home.

Mrs Maguire and two of her sons were jailed. Her younger children were farmed out. Her brother-in-law, Giuseppe Conlon, died in prison, of emphysema and despair.

More than 25 years later, Tony Blair apologised publicly to the Maguire seven for one of the gravest miscarriages of justice of the last century.

There was no bomb factory and no plot.

Last week, Bourgass was convicted of conspiring to cause a public nuisance.

There was no ricin.

There was no al-Qaeda recipe, only a recipe apparently invented by a white American Christian survivalist and downloaded from the internet.

According to Mary Riddel, "Tony Blair, David Blunkett, Colin Powell and senior police officers all used the arrests to illustrate the existence of a new breed of Islamist super-terrorist. A criminal prosecution was exploited to fit a political agenda. A war was justified and civil liberties imperilled by the ricin stash that never was."

"The affair of the sham ricin casts a long shadow over the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the credulous sensationalists of the media and, most of all, over politicians."


Simon Jenkins Times, April 15, in The Times:

"Bourgass, an illegal immigrant from Algeria, was found in possession of for ricin... copied from a 1980s Palo Alto website in California ... It had nothing to do with al-Qaida

"This man appears to have been the miserable detritus of a North African dictatorship....

"As for his eight supposed co-conspirators.... the crown never established them as terrorists, let alone al-Qaida. The trial, initiated in the run-up to the Iraq war, was heavily political."


The 'ricin plot' that didn't add up to a row of beans

In the Independent on Sunday, Severin Carrell and Raymond Whitaker report on Ricin: The Plot that never was.

The Ricin plot story was revealed before the invasion of Iraq.

But there was no ricin - a fact suppressed for more than two years.

There was no terrorist cell, just one deluded and dangerous man who killed a police officer during a bungled immigration raid.

No al-Qa'ida plot ever materialised.

According to the Independent on Sunday, "A terrorism trial which was spun from start to finish, abetted by many senior elements of the security establishment and much hysterical coverage in the media, is still being manipulated, regardless of the evidence in court."

"The 'ricin plot' was used before the Iraq war by Tony Blair as evidence of the danger from weapons of mass destruction, and by Colin Powell, then US Secretary of State, before the UN Security Council as proof that Iraq was aiding al-Qa'ida terrorism."

Claims against Bourgass - that he had military training in Afghanistan and was linked to al-Qa'ida, that he planned to smear poisons on car door handles in London's Holloway Road - came from Mohammed Meguerba (who may have links to the police and security services)

When British investigators went to Algeria and asked Meguerba to repeat his claims, defence lawyers point out, he withdrew most of them.

The jury refused to convict Bourgass of conspiracy to commit acts of Islamist terrorism by killing innocent civilians.

Professor Alistair Hay, one of Britain's foremost authorities on toxins, was scathing about Meguerba's allegations that ricin would be smeared on door handles. Ricin, he said, had to be injected straight into a victim to be a reliable weapon.

Professor Hay told The Independent on Sunday, "The claims made before the trial about this major ricin plot were very, very questionable".

On 7 January 2003 - the same day that two cabinet ministers claimed ricin had been found in north London - Porton scientists had realised there was no ricin there at all.

Defence lawyers, however, believe ministers knew at an early stage that the claimed ricin find was wrong.

Gareth Peirce, the human rights lawyer who acted for three of the acquitted men, claims that as ministers built up the fear of terrorist attack on Britain and prepared the public for the invasion of Iraq, the Government twice allowed largely unfounded scare stories to dominate the headlines - the ricin conspiracy and the alleged "poison gas" attack on the London Underground.
The alleged plot to target the Tube first appeared in The Sunday Times.

In fact, no such plot had been discovered.

As for Meguerba: 'there was no signed or recorded confession, just a memo or briefing drafted by Algerian security police which was given to the British'. Meguerba's story contained so many contradictions that Nigel Sweeney QC, the chief prosecution barrister in the Old Bailey trial, refused repeated requests by defence lawyers to allow him to give evidence.

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