Seven Britons went on trial on Tuesday charged with plotting to carry out bomb attacks on Britain in the country’s biggest anti-terrorism court case since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
The suspects, all smartly dressed in suits or jackets, appeared at London’s Old Bailey criminal court and, surrounded by 11 security guards, listened intently from the dock as the charges against them were read out.
They were accused of conspiring with two people, a Canadian called Mohammed Momin Khawaja and another person who has yet to be identified, to cause an explosion “likely to endanger life.”
Six of the suspects — Anthony Garcia, Jawad Akbar, Omar Khyam, Waheed Mahmoud, Nabeel Hussain and a teenager who cannot be named for legal reasons — were arrested during a major police operation in and around London in March 2004.
Police said they had uncovered 1,320 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, which is often used to make bombs, at a west London warehouse during raids across southern England.
A seventh man, Salahuddin Amin, was arrested at London’s Heathrow Airport in February 2005 after arriving on a flight from Pakistan.
Garcia, Khyam and Hussain are also charged with possessing ammonium nitrate which detectives suspected was “for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism”.
The trial, which is expected to last six months, has even greater resonance for Britons following suicide bombings on London’s transport network last July which killed 52 people.
“Terrorism has been at the forefront of news and debate worldwide for a long time,” Judge Michael Astill said after swearing in a jury of seven men and five women.
“It became a subject of much discussion and debate in the United Kingdom after the bombings of the 7th July, 2005.”
He said that while most reporting of such matters had been fair and accurate, some information on the Internet was “false or misleading” and urged the jurors not to read terrorism-related stories on the Web.