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Palestinian students caught in ‘tit for tat’ between Israel and Iran (1994)

"The Old Bailey" by Sarah-Rose. Used from flickr under Creative Commons.

On 7 June 2007, the European Court of Human Rights, after a four year wait, regrettably sided with the shameful Court of Appeal decision in 2001 to dismiss the appeal of Samar & Jawad against their conviction. 

Case of Botmeh and Alami v The United Kingdom
(Application No. 15187/03)

Judgment

The court unanimously

1. Declares the application admissible;

2. Holds that there has been no violation of Article 6 of the Convention

Statement on the European Court of Human Rights’ Rejection

It is deplorable for the prosecution to have claimed in 1996 that there was an “intelligence vaccum” when there are crates of material evidence pointing to suspects unrelated to Samar or Jawad.

It is deplorable to claim the bombing was carried by a UK based small group when there is evidence outside groups and organisations were interested and actively seeking to bomb the embassy.

It is deplorable that this evidence was hidden from trial, then suppressed by ministers through gagging orders.

It is deplorable that the Court of Appeal saw crates of evidence that neither the defendants nor the jury saw. If it proved guilt, why was it not used against Samar & Jawad?

It is deplorable that the judges saw fit to withhold those crates, and chose to protect governments and their secret services.

Instead of protecting fairness of trial, this European Court ruling sanctified the ability of government to withhold vital evidence. It focused on a narrow procedural point and ignored the essence of this injustice.

To date, the fingerprints of the bombers have never been identified or linked to the appellants.

To date, key questions about the bombings remain unanswered.

Samar & Jawad are innocent. They deserve and need better justice than this. Whatever the reasons for which Samar & Jawad have been scapegoated, they are not the interests of justice.
Justice will be done, and truth will out
Alas, this justice has not come from the European Court of Human Rights. Like the Guilford Four and Susan May, Samar & Jawad will have to go through more appeals.

Hopefully their July parole hearing will deliver them freedom.
“Someone will write his memoirs in 15 or 20 years time, and will reveal exactly who bombed the Israeli embassy in London in 1994. .. And it won’t be Samar Alami and Jawad Botmeh who did it.” Gareth Peirce, Samar & Jawad’s lawyer, 17 February 2000.

Randa Alami
for
Freedom & Justice for Samar & Jawad
BM Box FOSA
London WC1N 3XX
Randa@alami.demon.co.uk
http://www.freesaj.org.uk/

Susan May adds:

Apart from the whole INJUSTICE that Samar and Jawed have endured is the fact that both are still in jail….(way past the ‘normal’ time that should have been served!)….is testimony to the system that refuses to recognise both Samar and Jawed as decent, caring people who have actually enhanced the jails they have served in.

 I spent years in prison with Samar and always, she put others before herself.  Tirelessly working for the benefit of the other prisoners and dedicated lots of time to those who struggled whilst in prison. They are of course ‘political prisoners’ who are still inside because the establishment deems so!  The very least that should happen now is that they both be released immediately.

 

Judges reject pair’s claim that their trial was unfair

Two British-educated Palestinians sentenced to 20 years in prison for involvement in the car bombing of the Israeli embassy in London in 1994 yesterday lost their appeal against conviction.

Jawad Botmeh, 31, a businessman, and Samar Alami, 33, a postgraduate student, both UK residents, had argued they were not given a fair trial.

The case had become a cause célèbre among civil rights groups after it emerged during their appeal hearing last year that intelligence material pointing to other culprits – first revealed after their trial by the renegade M15 agent David Shayler – was not disclosed to defence lawyers.

But Lord Justice Rose, sitting with Mr Justice Hooper and Mr Justice Goldring, said that there was “no demonstrated breach” of article six of the human rights convention, which guarantees a fair trial.

The court also rejected a submission by their lawyers that their sentences were “manifestly excessive”.

Lord Justice Rose said: “Those who, whatever their motivation, place bombs in the heart of this city cannot expect their conduct to be treated with anything other than very substantial terms of imprisonment.”

But he added: “It is rightly said that both appellants are young, educated, idealistic and of exemplary character prior to these convictions, with many years of dedicated, constructive work behind them in support of the Palestinian people.”

The court’s ruling was greeted by cries of “shame”.

Afterwards, Botmeh issued a statement, saying: “Myself and Samar had an unfair trial that was followed, after a long wait, by an unfair appeal. This was a political trial from day one and we are totally innocent. The real perpetrators still remain free. We were only convenient scapegoats.

Alami, who has a master’s degree in engineering from Imperial College, said: “The grave injustice, started in 1995, has today been perpetuated and the wounds deepened.”

The judges refused them leave to appeal to the House of Lords, but their lawyers can apply directly to the law lords for permission to appeal. It is understood they are planning to take their case to Europe.

They were convicted on the basis that they were part of a previously unheard of UK-based terrorist cell which, acting alone, planned to sabotage the Middle East peace process.

Two car bombs were set off outside the embassy in Kensington Palace Gardens and the offices of a Jewish charity in north London. No one was killed.

The two denied involvement in the bombings or any terrorist organisation.

Faced with evidence of connections with two caches of pistols and bomb-making equipment, they claimed that they had been researching explosives with a view to assisting the Palestinian cause in the occupied territories.

During the appeal hearing, their counsel, Michael Mansfield QC, accused the crown prosecution service and the Home Office of throwing a blanket of secrecy over intelligence agency information which defence lawyers believed could clear the pair.

Although police said after their trial that there had been an “intelligence vacuum,” it emerged that David Shayler’s revelations, which were initially dismissed by the government, were true and were known to M16 and special branch as well as M15.

An M15 summary, read out in the court last year, said: “Some months prior to the bombing of the Israeli embassy on July 26 1994 the security service and the special branch received information from an agent source that a terrorist organisation unconnected to the two appellants was seeking information about the location and defences of the embassy for a possible bombing attack.”

But the crown relied on “related intelligence” received after the bomb attack that the terrorist organisation had not been responsible.

Alami’s social and political connections, through her work on Palestinian women’s issues and her wealthy banker father, raised the profile of the case. Lord Gilmour, a former cabinet minister and a friend of the family, was one of her sureties. A support group included the MPs Harry Cohen, Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn, as well as Jewish and Arab activists.

Botmeh, a friend of Alami, also had a master’s degree in engineering. His father is a bank manager on the West Bank and his mother works for the United Nations.

(Written by David Pallister, and retrieved from Guardian 2nd November 2001. Original link: http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2001/nov/02/israel)

 

 

MI5 ‘hid’ reports on embassy bombing

1994 attack on Israeli embassy part of ‘secret war’, court hears

Confidential intelligence agency reports may show the car bombing of Jewish targets in London six years ago was part of a secret “tit for tat” war between Israel and Iran and had nothing to do with two Palestinian students convicted at the Old Bailey, the court of appeal heard yesterday.

Lawyers acting for Jawad Botmeh, 31, and Samar Alami, 33, said important and relevant information presented to M15 before the explosions was not disclosed at the time of the trial, even though it could have affected the outcome.

Michael Mansfield, QC, said revelations in a Sunday newspaper three years ago by the former MI5 officer David Shayler cast doubt on prosecution speculation that the bombing of the Israeli embassy, and a second blast at the offices of Jewish charities in north London, had been down to “homegrown” Palestinian extremists, working on their own.

Shayler’s information pointed to a much larger and more sophisticated organisation being responsible for the bombings, the court heard.

According to Shayler, a reliable source had warned M15 that an attack on the Israeli embassy was imminent. But a report was shelved and the police were not notified. Attempts to establish the truth of Shayler’s claims had been stifled, the court heard.

The home secretary Jack Straw had signed “public interest immunity” (PII) certificates preventing disclosure, throwing a blanket of secrecy over intelligence agency information.

Demands for intelligence reports on attacks in other countries, particularly the car bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires shortly before the London campaign, had been rejected, Mr Mansfield said.

“It is unrealistic for the crown to dig in like this when similar attacks at a similar time by agents or groups with hostility to Israel must be relevant.

“We believe there is more information that may link London to Buenos Aires and to a secret war that has been going on between Iran and Israel.”

Attempts to find out what role Israeli government agents had played in examining the scene of the Israeli embassy blast had also come to nothing, Mr Mansfield said.

“Somebody undoubtedly did come from Israel and for some reason nobody knows who they were or what they took away from the scene or what conclusions they came to.”

The type of explosive used in the Israeli embassy bomb was also still a mystery, the court heard.

Mr Mansfield told Lord Justice Rose, Mr Justice Hooper and Mr Justice Goldring, that the appellants had received “no more material at all” since their convictions, despite concern that key evidence was being withheld.

Botmeh and Alami, both British residents, were jailed for 20 years in December 1996 for conspiracy to cause explosions in the UK.

The pair, graduates from English universities, were convicted on the basis that they were part of a UK-based extremist terrorist cell.

They admitted experimenting in an amateurish way with a certain type of explosive in order to provide technical information for the protection of their home communities in Palestine.

But they denied involvement in the bombings, insisting the explosions in London were counter-productive.

The pair were granted leave to appeal on the grounds that information covered by the PII certificates could have affected the outcome of the trial.

Their lawyers claim that the non-disclosure breached the Human Rights Act and Article 6 of the European Human Rights Convention entitling everyone to a fair trial.

The campaign to free Botmeh and Alami has been supported by Amnesty International and numerous politicians. In a joint statement, MPs Lynne Jones and Tony Benn said they believed there had been a miscarriage of justice.

“The conspiracy of which they are accused can only have been organised by a highly-trained professional and experienced group,” they said. The hearing continues.

(By Nick Hopkins, crime correspondent, retrieved from the Guardian 24th October 2000. Original link: http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2000/oct/25/israel)

 

See also:

MI5 report ‘mislaid’ at Palestinians’ trial

“Months before the bombing of the Israeli embassy in London in 1994 MI5 received intelligence of a terrorist organisation asking about the building’s “location and defences”, it was revealed in the appeal court yesterday. According to a hitherto undisclosed MI5 report, the organisation was not connected to Jawad Botmeh and Samar Alami, two Palestinian students convicted for conspiracy to cause explosions in 1996 and jailed for 20 years.”
http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2000/oct/27/israel

Caught in the blast

Two Palestinians have spent six years in British jails for conspiring to bomb the Israeli embassy in 1994. They were not at the scene, and the evidence against them looks increasingly frail. Next week, their case goes to appeal. But, says Andy Beckett, whatever the verdict, the real mystery is unlikely to be solved.
http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2000/oct/21/weekend7.weekend1

About INNOCENT (134 Articles)
Challenging miscarriages of justice since 1993.

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