Page last updated at 18:04 GMT, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Accused a 'healer, not a killer'

By Mario Cacciottolo
BBC News

Dr Bilal Abdulla
Dr Abdulla told court he would 'never attack an innocent person'

For much of his cross-examination, Dr Bilal Abdulla seemed a little hesitant, stumbling over his words as he tried to answer the prosecution's questions.

But when the topic turned, as prosecutor Jonathan Laidlaw QC put it, to his "background," one sensed he quite enjoyed the opportunity to express a few views.

He spoke quickly in the witness box at Woolwich Crown Court, occasionally waving his right hand when pressing home a point.

Dr Abdulla denies conspiracies to murder and to cause explosions in London and Glasgow.

The Sunni Muslim spoke of his dislike of Shias, argued with Mr Laidlaw over whether Saddam Hussein was actually Muslim, and expressed his support for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was linked to the beheading of foreign nationals and to bomb attacks on civilians in Iraq.

"'I'm much better than British or American soldiers who are killing my people," Dr Abdulla said.

The Iraqi national told the court how his political and religious views shifted after the two conflicts in his home country.

"It was after the political problems with the Shia started and seeing the massacres that have taken place in Iraq that my views definitely hardened, like all the Sunnis of the region."

I would never attack an innocent person. It is instinctive I am a healer, I am a doctor. I am not a killer
Bilal Abdulla

When Mr Laidlaw told the defendant that it was "not for you or for me to debate the rights or wrongs of this country's involvement in Iraq," Dr Abdulla looked down at his feet, as if that were an opportunity missed to say what he was thinking.

Proceedings came to a temporary impasse when Mr Laidlaw described Saddam Hussein as a Sunni Muslim. Dr Abdulla firmly rejected this, saying the former Iraqi leader's Baath party was secular.

Dr Abdulla also disputed the proportions of Sunni and Shia Muslims in Iraq, disagreeing with the suggestion that most Iraqis followed Shia traditions.

The doctor also said he believed that coalition forces, after they came to Iraq, had aided Shia militias to attack Sunnis.

"The occupier found in the Shia the best protector for them against the Sunnis, who had fought against the invaders." His words about the Sunnis were tinged with a hint of pride.

"I don't believe Shias practise Islam," he said, before going on to explain, with another sweep of his hand, how Iran "wants to invade the entire region to make a Shia empire".

'Taste of fear'

The court also heard how in an e-mail years before, Dr Abdulla had described Shias as a "growing cancer".

The doctor later made the point that, when he came to live in Cambridge after leaving Iraq, he stayed with family members who were Shias.

He confirmed that he supported all those involved with the Iraqi insurgency, including al-Zarqawi, who he said was misrepresented by the West - that Iraqi insurgent was killed by a US air strike in 2006.

"I admire all the Iraqi figures, all the figures who are fighting the occupier," Dr Abdulla said.

His admiration dried up at the mention of Osama Bin Laden, however, who he said is "alleged" to have been behind the 9/11 attacks.

"I used the word alleged because it's a legal term, and this person has never been tried," he explained, going on to say that he thought Bin Laden should be put on trial for the "atrocity" of 9/11.

But he again denied being involved himself in a plot to kill people, wanting only to give a "taste of fear" to people.

"I would never attack an innocent person. It is instinctive I am a healer, I am a doctor. I am not a killer. My father is a doctor, my mother is a pharmacist," he said.

"I wanted the people here to realise that the people they entrusted, they elected, they are not worthy of that trust and they are murderers."

The trial continues.

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