[JURIST] A judge sitting at London's Old Bailey criminal court sentenced five British men of Pakistani descent to life imprisonment Monday at the end of a year-long terrorism trial – the largest UK terrorism trial [JURIST report] since al Qaeda's September 11 attacks on the United States – that culminated in the longest deliberation by a jury [BBC report] in the recorded history of British criminal law. The jury hearing the Crown's case against seven men originally accused of conspiring to detonate fertilizer bombs in a British shopping center, a nightclub, a gas network, and other potential mass-casualty targets in 2003 and 2004 weighed their verdicts [BBC breakdown] for 27 days after having heard from 105 prosecution witnesses over 13 months. Convicted were Omar Khyam, 24: Anthony Garcia, 24 (also known as Rahman Adam); Salahuddin Amin, 31; Jawad Akbar, 23; and Waheed Mahood, 34. Nabeel Hussain, 20 and Shujah Mahmood, 19, were acquitted. Key to the Crown's case was the testimony of Mohammed Babar [BBC profile], an American citizen also of Pakistani descent who worked with the defendants and later pleaded guilty to terrorism charges [CNN report] in New York in 2004. Mohammed Momin Khawaja [CBC backgrounder], arrested and charged [JURIST report] in connection with the operation in Canada and currently awaiting trial there, was identified at trial as another co-conspirator.
Prosecutor David Waters said the men were fully prepared and had acquired all the necessary items to go through with their plan, including 600kg of ammonium nitrate fertilizer which was confiscated in 2004 by police at a west London storage depot. It has also been revealed that some of the convicted men met two of the suicide bombers [MI5 press release] who carried out a deadly attack on the London transit system on July 7, 2005 [JURIST news archive], although that fact was kept secret from the jury so as not to influence their deliberations on the fertilizer bomb plot. The opposition Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have called for an inquiry to investigate the nature of the link between the groups and why the the suicide plot was not caught earlier, although a statement released by the MI5 security service Monday insisted [MI5 press release] that "the Security Service will never have the capacity to investigate everyone who appears on the periphery of every operation." BBC News has more.