Judge says 'al-Qaeda emails' could refer to bomb plot
By Duncan Gardham, Security Correspondent | August 14, 2009
Five Pakistani students have been denied bail after a judge decided they may have used coded emails about girls and cars to plan an Easter bombing campaign in Manchester.
The emails, disclosed by the Daily Telegraph last month, appear to use girl’s names to allude to bomb-making chemicals and a planned wedding as code for the attack.
Mr Justice Mitting, a high court judge, chairing the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), said, “unless that assessment is clearly wrong we must, for present purposes, accept it.”
He said the commission had examined further evidence about the emails behind closed doors and was refusing bail until a full hearing next year.
The Government is trying to deport the students saying they are a risk to national security because they were members of a “UK-based network involved in terrorist operational activity in the UK, most likely attack planning.”
MI5 claims that the terrorist network was “co-ordinated” by a 23-year-old student who can only be referred to as “XC”, who sent and received the emails, and that it was “directed by al-Qaeda based overseas.”
They believe he was using girl’s names to allude to chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide and phrases such as “weak and difficult to convince” or “crystal clear” to the strengths of the chemicals available.
In one email the alleged commander in Pakistan referred to a “new car” which MI5 believed could refer to car bombs.
An email sent by XC on the afternoon of April 3 sparked fears that an attack was imminent when he said he had “agreed to conduct the nikah [wedding] after 15th and before 20th of this month” adding: “We will have many guests attending the party…I wished you could be here as well to enjoy the party.” It was this that led to police raids across the north west in which 11 men were arrested.
Four of the students attended one or both meetings with XC held on March 23 and April 1 this year when the “wedding” was allegedly discussed.
Mr Justice Mitting said the commission did not find MI5’s assessment of the meetings was “clearly wrong.”
Referring to the emails, he added: “On the information, open and closed, which we have now, we are not satisfied that the assessment by the Security Service of their likely meaning is clearly wrong.”
Robin Tam, QC for the government, said the emails were “central to the open case against the appellants” but Richard Hermer QC for XC told the commission that the assessment was far fetched and that when the emails were examined in the context of all the others stored on the hard drive of the man’s computer, they would be shown to be no more than innocent social discussions.
The commission said XC had submitted a “belated, as yet unsigned, statement” which made the same claim and suggested that the emails refer to “girls, though not by their own names, and that he hoped to marry in April 2009.”
All the appellants have pointed to the fact that no explosives were recovered and that there is nothing to link any of those arrested with explosives.
Of the 11 men initially arrested, eight are appealing against deportation on national security grounds, including XC, Abdul Wahab Khan, Shoaib Khan, Mohammed Ramzan, Ahmed Faraz Khan and Tariq ur-Rehman, who has returned to Pakistan voluntarily. Five had their application for bail turned down.
Two others, Janas Khan and Sultan Sher, have been bailed pending deportation for visa irregularities although the government still maintains they were “involved in an extreme Islamist network.”
A British man, Hamza Shinwari, was released without charge.
The three unnamed men, including XC, have declined to waive their anonymity under the rules that govern SIAC.