Socialist Worker

Gareth Peirce says there are serious questions over the Birmingham terror trial

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2566

Gareth Peirce

Gareth Peirce (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Three men from Birmingham and a man from Stoke-on-Trent were convicted last week of plotting terror attacks. Naweed Ali, Khobaib Hussain, Mohibur Rahman and Tahir Aziz were jailed for life on Thursday of last week.

The court heard that the men had planned to strike police and military targets using a pipe bomb and a meat cleaver.

Gareth Peirce, the lawyer for Naweed Ali and Khobaib Hussain, has said serious questions remain about the case.

The judge, Mr Justice Globe, had instructed undercover police officers giving evidence during the trial not to communicate with one another. But deleted text messages sent by one undercover officer known as Vincent showed that officers were in contact with one another.

Gareth said, “Constant messages revealing meetings arranged between officers at lay bys on motorways and in the bars of hotels near the Old Bailey whilst they were in the midst of giving witness evidence in court must be sufficient to shock any court as to the propriety and integrity of the evidence being given and the reliability and credibility of the witness himself.

“Denial of contact by the central witness must reasonably cause doubt about the very case itself.”

One deleted text from Vincent read, “I’m determined to put in an Oscar performance when I get in that box.” Another read, “We’re getting older but not to [sic] old to twirl them and put them away for a long time ;-).”

Evidence

The defendants claimed that police had planted evidence that was used against them. The judge and the jury accepted the police version of events.

Gareth said the defendants had been under “constant surveillance” for more than a month before they were arrested. She asked how they could have accessed the items found in Naweed Ali’s car—an improvised pipe bomb with gunpowder inside, shotgun cartridges and a meat cleaver—when under surveillance.

There was no evidence of the men obtaining, purchasing, handling or knowing of the items in the car. Gareth said, “There was no link of fingerprints with any of the defendants.”

As part of an undercover courier firm, Vincent would park Ali’s car while he made deliveries.

Gareth said, “One deleted text showed Andy [another undercover cop] referring to a photograph of Vincent with a “blunderbuss”, followed by an acknowledgement by another witness that he was a firearms buff who would undoubtedly, as the owner of a shotgun licence, have easy access to shotgun cartridges.”

There were fingerprints found on the items in the car. But they could not be checked against Vincent’s because there was no record of his fingerprints on the police fingerprint system.

She said that a notebook that was said to have been filled in contemporaneously “contained a mismatch of sequence of events”.

“It could never have been contemporaneously recorded during the undercover operation,” she said.

Moazzam Begg

Moazzam Begg (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Interests

Part of the trial was held in secret in the interests of “national security”.

Gareth said there is a “clear distortion” of the normal criminal justice process “as a result of the introduction of undercover police and British Security Service officers as the givers of evidence normally conducted by ‘ordinary’ counter terrorism detectives”.

She pointed out that it is not possible to adequately investigate previous behaviour of undercover officers. They can refuse to answer questions in court by claiming that to answer “would constitute a risk to national security”.

Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg, who is now director of the Cage campaign group, said, “West Midlands Police was accused of entrapment, perjury and falsifying evidence. Such accusations have startling repercussions on future trials and arrests.

“The last successful terror attack in Birmingham occurred in 1974 and resulted in the convictions of the ‘Birmingham Six’. They were eventually freed after sixteen years in prison when the Court of Appeal accepted that police had fabricated and suppressed exculpatory evidence and ruled the convictions ‘unsafe and unsatisfactory’.

“Had the police in the case of the Birmingham Six also enjoyed anonymity it is reasonable to conclude their victims would have remained in prison.

“At the very least there must be an inquiry into how the police were able to escape scrutiny in a case filled with so many lies, inconsistencies and cover up.”


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