CAGE casts doubt over “Three Musketeers” terror convictions

Left to right: Naweed Ali, Khobaib Hussain and Mohibur Rahman [Image: West Midlands Police]

Advocacy group CAGE have said the case of four men convicted this week for hatching a terror plot raises serious questions regarding entrapment, police conduct and due process.

A group of men who named themselves the “Three Musketeers” were found guilty of planning a terrorist attack on a military or police target in Britain.

Khobaib Hussain, 25, and Naweed Ali, 29, both from Birmingham, and Mohibur Rahman, 33, of Stoke-on-Trent, were convicted at the Old Bailey yesterday.

They were arrested in August 2016 as part of an undercover police operation.

A fourth man, Tahir Aziz, 38, from Stoke-on-Trent, was also found guilty of the same offence.

Police said that the men, who had all denied plotting terror attacks, were inspired by ISIS.

They were described as “dangerous men” who were committed to carrying out a “mass casualty attack.”

But CAGE said text messages exchanged between undercover agents during the trial – despite them being instructed not to communicate with one another by the judge – reveal a startling degree of impunity.

One undercover officer, referred to as “Vincent,” repeatedly refused to answer questions in court and was unable to give explanations about numerous discrepancies on his version of events.

A deleted message from him read: “The situation we find ourselves in with BSS [British Security Service] is not ideal (understatement) either way I’m even more determined to put in an Oscar performance when I get in that box…I won’t let you down … I would die first.”

On February 24 last year, just before the trial was due to start “Vincent” wrote: “It’s nothing we ain’t seen before … usual bollox we planted it all and fitted ‘em up!!”

Defendants claimed from the beginning that police had planted the evidence that was later used against them. Despite the “sting” operation set up by the police, there was also no video or forensic evidence of the accused obtaining, purchasing, handling or even knowing of the items “discovered” in the car.

The trial was held partly in secret “in the interests of national security” and two anonymous witnesses gave evidence behind closed doors.

Moazzam Begg, Outreach Director for CAGE, said: “West Midlands Police was accused of entrapment, perjury and falsifying evidence during the five-month trial. Such accusations have startling repercussions on future trials and arrests, and will gain momentum in the minds of communities.

“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 and their evidence remained above scrutiny it is reasonable to conclude their victims would have remained in prison. The true culprits have yet to face justice but, the city of Birmingham is still traumatised by this event and the deep mistrust of the police that followed.

“The case of the ‘Three Musketeers’ has chillingly similar echoes and has the potential for regenerating that mistrust at a time when the terror threat at its highest in decades and when anti-Muslim hatred and sentiment is at unprecedented levels.

“There are too many questions about the conduct of the police, the transparency of the courts, the impartiality of the judge, the direction of the jury and reporting by the media to render this conviction safe and satisfactory. 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 ups.”

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