After Kamel Bourgass was convicted for his part in an alleged Al-Qaida poison plot, while four other men were acquitted and charges were dropped against a further four, questions were raised as to whether there was in fact any plot at all.
Azad Ali of the Muslim Safety Forum, where top police officers and Muslim leaders discuss terrorism and other issues, said: “The ricin plot was part of government thinking and public justification in bringing in control orders. This will confirm the feeling in the Muslim community that it is being victimised on the basis of intelligence that was not tested in anything like a court, and when it is, it is thrown out.”
Gareth Peirce, the solicitor for three of those found not guilty, called on the government to justify its claims about an Islamist terror plot: “There was never any ricin, there were no poisons made. There seems to be a pathetic, clumsy, amateurish attempt to make some by a man who was conceded, I think by all, to be a difficult, anti-social loner.”
Richard Norton-Taylor points out: “The ricin claims were seized on most strikingly by Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, in his dramatic but now discredited speech on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction programme to the UN security council on February 5 2003, five weeks before the invasion. Insisting ‘every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources’, Mr Powell spoke of a ‘sinister nexus between Iraq and the al-Qaida terrorist network’.”
The Islamic Human Rights Commission noted: “Over 90 arrests were made in the anti-terror sweep that netted the men with 9 charges and only a single conviction. Yet, sensational reporting by the media coupled with almost daily prejudicial statements by the government and security services create an environment of fear which fuels racism and Islamophobia.”
The Telegraph, though, remains convinced there was an Islamist terrorist conspiracy, assisted by lax immigration controls: “An illegal immigrant trained by al-Qa’eda to be one of its top poisoners was jailed for 17 years yesterday for leading a plot to terrorise Britain with ricin and cyanide.”