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Tuesday, 16 October, 2001, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
Bin Laden: Guilty as charged?
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that the "overwhelming" evidence leaves him in "no doubt" that Osama Bin Laden and the al-Qaeda network were responsible for the US terrorist attacks.
Mr Blair said the attacks bore all the hallmarks of a Bin Laden operation, including long-term planning and a determination to inflict mass casualties.
Three of the 19 terrorists identified from passenger lists on the hijacked flights used in the attacks were "known associates" of Bin Laden and one had played a key role in some of his earlier attacks on US targets.
In addition, one of Bin Laden's closest lieutenants had said he helped plan the attacks and admitted al-Qaeda's involvement.
Are you fully convinced by the evidence given that Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda are responsible for the attacks? Do you think all the evidence should be given to the public?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
What evidence is there that Bin Laden is responsible? He has publicly stated many times that he is at war with America - well before September 11th. He has publicly stated that it is the duty of all Muslims to kill all Americans. He has publicly stated responsiblity for the USS Cole bombing in his recruitment video. His spokesman stated this week that American Muslims should stay off airplanes and out of tall buildings, because the attacks on America will "continue". What more do you want?
For there to be any kind of meaningful trial, the accused has to be present. This can be done in one of two ways; voluntarily, with a summons/subpoena, or forcibly, with an arrest warrant. Mr. Bin Laden and his protectors have opted for the latter. And the burden of proof for a warrant is not "beyond a reasonable doubt," but rather "reason to believe".
I don't think we would spend this kind of money or effort unless we were sure the Taliban and Osama bin Laden were guilty. What they do to their own people is reason enough for me to think they are capable of this terrible act. If it was an American group of terrorists who did this to their country, I believe we would do anything to bring them to justice. American citizens would demand it!
One has to trust that our governments would not have been so swift to act had they not had concrete proof of guilt. None of us has the right to see the evidence if releasing it would endanger the lives of those who were responsible for actually getting it. We are used to getting all the facts but sometimes it is not appropriate to release these. We elected these people, one could argue that point in the case of Mr Bush but if we didn't trust them, we shouldn't have voted them in. Personally, whilst I have huge sympathy for the suffering of the Afghan people, we put our own lives in danger if we do not stop this terrorism now.
Bin Laden may very well be guilty. After four weeks of following the story, the Americans have not produced compelling evidence. One thing I strongly believe is that the September 11 attack by the terrorists was a result of the perceived injustice of America. The reaction of America has demonstrated that this perception is in fact reality.
Evidence? What evidence? If one or two politicians say something does this mean it is evidence?
The US does not need evidence if it is to proof their position as a super power. What does super power mean anyway? To be able to force your will onto all other countries and have everybody think, act and live in what the Americans call a free world? Congratulations to Europe! America calls and Europe jumps, as usual. Are we already the 53rd state?
As an ordinary citizen I have been shown no evidence to prove who was responsible for the atrocities. If the fact that Tony Blair or George Bush say, it was Bin Laden is adequate proof to declare war on Third World countries, then who am I to argue. However, it would be nice for the public to know the facts and be able to evaluate their validity before being expected to condone another massive atrocity.
It is unfortunate that our governments have told us that the evidence against Osama bin Laden is "compelling", although not yet fit to be released. If the Americans manage to catch Bin Laden alive and put him on trial, how could they now put together an unbiased jury?
The CIA and FBI became totally ineffective before the attacks in US, but became very effective within hours to point out who did it?
One problem I noticed is that the US and UK expect to capture Osama and Taleban so quickly. I thought it took the Soviets 10 years and they still couldn't capture Afghan fully. If the US meets it's goals quickly all the countries will still support it, but if it takes a year and people are dying and the Taleban and US are still fighting in the mountains terrain, the support will be lost.
There is adequate evidence that al-Qaeda has done it, but there also seems to be evidence that they did not do it by themselves. This event may be the result of the merger of fanatic groups of similar ideas.
I had no doubts about Bin Laden involvement in the attacks from the first. But the question remains even if he is the mastermind and planner of these attacks, is he really the top man? Is there anyone or any network that controls him and gives instructions? Are they only Muslims (that I think it has nothing to do with religion other than having a mask to hide the face)? To me it appears to have more financial assets than a blind retaliation or avenge against the Western world!
I feel that before pointing out at someone, concrete evidence should produce.
When Mr. Bush claims that he is leading the US economy in the right direction, there are many in the US who are sceptical of his remarks - but strangely when the same Bush claims that Osama is the villain, people are ready to accept his statements at face value. This only proves that people believe only what they want to believe. The truth is secondary. This attitude is fine as long it does not effect others - but once you make judgements on others based on this attitude - well that's going to create more problems than solving any.
I think the September 11 is the produce of another hand other than Osama Bin Laden, since Osama has no such sophisticated technology and intelligence support in America. If USA doubts on Osama why they are fearing to release the proofs in front of the people? Punishment is not decided by a victim, but a court of law. In this case also want the same to keep the Rule of Law.
What evidence? How could we be convinced by it if we haven't seen it?
In a democratic and free society, one is innocent until proved guilty. So although Bin Laden may be many nasty things, he is innocent until he is tried and proved guilty in an international court. But the Americans refuse to do this. Secondly, the accused must know what the evidence against him is - but the Americans refuse to show the Taleban what evidence they have against Bin Laden. And thirdly, as a lawyer I'm not at all convinced about the evidence that has been shown to us. Most of it is conjecture, speculation and at most, circumstantial. What we're seeing here is a PR exercise in the guise of 'evidence' so that people can go after an easy target in order to satisfy their lust for revenge, or in order to be seen to be doing something.
Malcolm McMahon, York, UK
By not releasing their supposed evidence, Bush and Blair are making a mockery of the very concept of justice. Could you imagine a court case where the prosecution says, "Sorry but we can't provide any evidence. You must trust us. Anyway, we will now execute the accused as well as those living with him."
Paul Miller, England
I am certain that he is guilty. And if he is as much for "brotherhood" as he would like people to believe, why doesn't he surrender instead of dragging down Afghanistan and perhaps much, much more with him?
If there is hard evidence, for goodness sake, show us all. I think everyone wants to believe we know who did it in order to be able to feel right about what we may be about to do to Afghanistan.
Whatever will destroy him and his racket. He treats the West as fair game; he, his allies and his sympathizers should suffer the same.
The evidence against Osama Bin Laden, though substantial, is not proven. Imagine this was a smaller issue and was in the federal courts. Right now there would be much speculation about his sentence. We can't let anger get to our heads and cloud up evidence to make it valid.
Yes, all evidence should be made public. We should also be informed of the facts surrounding past attempts to assassinate Osama Bin Laden - when, why, and by whom.
I think there is a general mistrust of government and intelligence-gathering authorities that will cause people to question any moral decision they try to sell us. This is probably due to their history of dubious decisions that were transparently politically motivated. Whether the public is convinced or not, the military powers have already made their decisions and once the strikes begin, it will be impossible to reverse, and Bin Laden's guilt or innocence will be accademic.
The Taleban has asked for proof against Osama bin Laden before taking action against him. If there is such undeniable evidence, why doesn't the US government show it to Taliban? If Afghanistan or Pakistan wanted the US or UK to hand over an American or British citizen without giving proof, or without even negotiating, would America or Britain comply? In Britain's case, it has repeatedly refused to extradite even known Pakistani criminals against whom ample proof was presented to the British government. Such stubbornness and lack of rationalism from the developed world proves only one thing: might is right.
Events will reveal Osama to be undeniably involved in this crime. However, a trial must be held or the precedent of circumventing legal procedure could be used by a number of powerful groups for vastly different purposes. This danger is far more serious than the potential disruption of the CIA's information network.
To prove that he is guilty we need a trial in a court of law, not by the media, as is happening now. If the attacks were against the civilized world and democracy, then the USA and UK governments should behave in a civilized way, not like cowboys.
I'm certain that Bin Laden is related to this attack. We will just have to accept that there is no way our governments can give too much information. It would result in many informant deaths, and destroy our ability to find out about future attacks.
It is ridiculous to claim that the US and the UK have fabricated the evidence. The evidence comes from many different countries. Much of it comes from France, who we all know never looks to do either the US or the UK any favours.
Not one country, including many Islamic countries, has disputed the evidence. They all agree that it is sufficient. The Taleban can ask to see this evidence all they like, but it has grown increasingly evident that showing the evidence to the Taleban would be the equivalent of showing it to Bin Laden himself.
While the BBC and CNN keep on pushing these accusations against Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden, the majority of the world knows that these two parties were not involved in the tragic crime committed on September 11th. The Western media's attempts to convince the public only prove that the USA and the Western world are covering up for someone. If the FBI investigate Mossad, the CIA, Sharon, Bush and Powell they will find the truth behind the conspiracy.
This evidence was carefully complied by the same agencey who arrested Sikhs thinking they were Osama's men!
David Price, Australia
Because destruction occurred on a large scale within the USA this time, emotions have overcome common sense. Some of the statements issued by President Bush and other Western leaders also reflected that. I don't have any sympathy for Bin Laden but I am sure that he would have enough courage to accept the responsibility for these attacks if he were guilty. The roots of these attacks are within the USA.
If he isn't guilty and has nothing to hide, why doesn't he give himself up for trial?
We have already seen that the courts in the Hague can deliver justice where required, for all parties involved.
Dr I Ghanem, Aden & UK
Those who say that Bin Laden must be tried in an international court are essentially arguing that sovereign states do not have the right to act in self-defence. If someone had done this to London, I would not be in favour of letting the international community or courts decide what actions Britain should take. Instead, I would hope that the US would back the UK in doing whatever was considered an appropriate response.
Bin Laden was US public enemy number one even before the September 11th attacks. I believe the Americans are implicating Bin Laden on previous evidence from other attacks, and don't have any concrete evidence of the current attack. This whole exercise is to cool down the anger of American public. It seems a face saving campaign because they need a scapegoat, and who else but public enemy number one becomes the target? If Americans can not publicize the evidence now then I would hope that they will do when they catch Bin Laden and put him on trial in a court of law. But this is highly unlikely because they will kill him rather than capture him. If there is any proof then it should be put before public now. Doing so would build a massive public support for the leaders they could count on if things became nasty in the war.
Since there is no clear evidence against Osama Bin Laden (a brave man), he is not considered guilty. It's very clearly a conspiracy cooked up by the West and it's allies in the Middle East. Islam is always targeted by the West, but it will never be weakened whatever the enemy is capable of. America has to review it's policies towards the Muslim countries otherwise it will get a lot of trouble in the days to come
"Dead or alive." Justice without trial. Is this democracy? We should judge others' deeds like we judge our own. If we're ready to sentence someone to death without trial then we should be ready to accept it if they do the same to us. We have a chance to show that we aren't on the same level of morality as the terrorists.
The UN is a useless dummy organization which will approve whatever the US does. The FBI is notorious for forging documents and evidence. They have in the past hidden evidence from a Court of Law, so how can we trust them? The US government trained Bin Laden and his organization, so the US should convict FBI & CIA also. The US government have no moral right to punish Bin Laden or his organization.
There is no doubt in my mind that Bin Laden is guilty even though it was associates linked to him that physically carried out the attacks. All the finance, planning, final decision, and the date to strike were authorised by him and needed his financing. These attacks took years to plan and only a person with Bin Laden's personal hatred and conviction of the US could have taken so much time, money, effort and resources to actually go through with it and want to attack the US on its own soil. Over the past decade Bin Laden caused destruction outside the US and one can now sense his need to have hit the US itself in order to make a point. Previously attacks took place abroad and after a while attention was forgotten which fuelled his desire to cause mass destruction as he did on September 11 in the US itself.
Stuart Harris says that only a person with Bin Laden's conviction could attack the US on its own soil.
So I take it that Osama Bin Laden was the mastermind in the Oklahoma bombing as well?
People, please say something sensible.
Karim, Colchester, UK
I am certain that most of the evidence comes via highly confidential informants who work in the intelligence services of countries like Iraq, Syria, Lybia or Iran. Maybe the CIA has a source or two in Bin Laden's inner circle. To reveal this evidence would place a death sentence on those sources. It would mean losing not just that source of vital information, but would also ruin any chances of obtaining future confidential informants. These spies are absolutely essential in intelligence gathering.
Within hour of the plane crash President Bush told the world that Osama bin Laden was the prime suspect. That means that the decision to attack Afghanistan or kill Osama Bin Laden was decided immediately after the WTC attack, or maybe months before. Then why does the USA or UK need proof against Bin Laden? This was their basic plan and they will attack Afghanistan with or without proof. The
USA has done this before and will do it again and again unless we stop them. Bush is going to please his countrymen by killing innocent people.
I am certainly not a supporter of Osama Bin Laden, but I think that we as a people have not seen enough proof. Osama is responsible for inciting so many emotions, hatred and deadly fatwas against those whose lifestyles do not meet his expectations that it is logical for the West to take this opportunity to attack him and his roots even if there is insufficient proof.
A man is innocent until proven guilty. However, there is sufficient evidence to press charges against Bin Laden, given the fact that he issued a religious edict calling for death to American servicemen and civilians alike. He should be brought to justice in a US court because this crime was committed over US soil.
Steve J Rees, Australia
Both the USA and NATO have put their "educated" opinions to the rest of the world, and like normal we are obliged to believe what they say. In typical fashion, our puppet Prime Minister and his Government follow blindly along with the majority and expect all to fall into place behind.
I once read that all men were innocent until proven guilty by a court of law. The US and NATO are not judge, jury and executioner and nor should they be allowed to be!
Since there is no public evidence of his guilt, the public knows nothing. Since we know nothing, we have no good reason to accuse Bin Laden of a crime, much less assume his guilt. I am shocked and angry like everyone else, but it should be noted that all opinions regarding his guilt are completely uninformed. How many people who believe he should be executed on the spot have studied the situation? How many are professionally involved? How many are simply very very angry?
Hitler admitted he hated Jews, but never admitted to the holocaust. In the midst of the war, would you people have demanded a public trial of every Nazi while the rest continue to slaughter? Should governments reveal the evidence to every citizen and terrorist alike? Absolutely ridiculous. It is too simple minded to suggest that you can apply standard law to a worldwide terrorist organization like you could to a local gang of car thieves.
Talk about courtroom-type proof and an international trial are pathetically naive. Terrorists hide behind our system of justice and would certainly use such time (and there would be alot of it) to inflict more damage. We know that bin laden has been linked to numerous terrorist attacks, openly approves of and encourages such attacks and is responsible, along with the Taliban, for maintaining training camps where such terrorists continue to breed. While you wait for an international tribunal to gather evidence, terrorists who do not believe in our system of justice (and who mock it) will take more lives. This is a clear and present danger that must be removed, and time is of the essence.
And, lastly, anyone who is critical of the western media and American foreign policy (which no doubt can be criticised) but remains silent about the propaganda and cruelty rampant in oppressive regimes in the middle east is hopelessly one sided. If such tyrannies were dominant here, we would not be having this conversation.
James Wilson, UK
I wish there was peace and prosperity in every corner of this earth. This is a gift from God and we have to appreciate it and spread brotherhood amongst all human beings. Anyone who wants to spoil peace should be punished without delay.
I am not fully convinced by the evidence given because there is no real evidence on offer.
If the evidence can be shown to the public without compromising the safety of the people who gathered it, then I think it should be made public. If people's lives are on the line however, then maybe - just for once - we should have faith in the government to act in our best interests.
The fact that Osama Bin Laden has become the number one suspect in this matter is hardly surprising considering his words, previous actions and the fact that he is in hiding. After all, if he has nothing to fear and can prove he wasn't involved, surely he would be the first person trying to clear his name?
In response to the comments from Darren Badrock. I'm not in any way defending Bin Laden, but if you look at the Birmingham Six and the Guilford Four then you'll see that innocence is not always a defence against being put away for terrorism. I would prefer to see western governments being open about this and producing some proof. We have been led down the wrong path so many times in the past. Let's not make the same mistakes again, especially if innocent Afghans will die. Surely in a new world order, the right to a fair trial should be a human right. Even if the person accused is a barbarian.
He should be brought to justice, either immediate or through the courts as the situation lends itself. It may be more difficult than it sounds and I would not expect a quick result. Since one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter this makes it almost impossible to penetrate an organisation such as Bin Laden's al-Qaeda.
We take it on trust that he is guilty. It would make no sense for the US to finger the wrong man. If they are convinced we should be too. However will this conflict lead us to a safer world? I don't think so. Politicians have a duty to tell us when peaceful normality is going to be restored and what the path to it will be.
If the US admitted they're out for revenge, not justice and bombed him to hell and back, I'd sleep easier. But the current situation makes a mockery of our supposed democratic system and Bush and Blair's stance is as great a threat to democracy as the enemy.
The conclusive evidence that is not being showed to the public is worrying. We don't really know who is behind these attacks. We don't know a lot about the attackers and their motives and why they wanted to kill so many US people. The US have inflicted pain on the Middle East in the past and they do it in ways that the public doesn't realise like stopping aid and imposing sanctions. Think about how many people are already suffering and will suffer more now that the US has an excuse for military action. George Bush needs to sit down and think how much better it would be to get the enemy on his side and its people rather than create even more innocent deaths and start the beginning of another war.
How can anyone make a judgement on someone's guilt or innocence without the full evidence? The only way we can ever know the truth of his responsibility is through a fair trial conducted under international law. In this case all the public have is the word of Bush and Blair and with the massing of troops in the areas, have made it quite clear to the world that they have decided his guilt already.
Let's capture him, hold a trial in an international court and see if he is guilty or not.
It would be hard to prove his guilt even if he was guilty. His organisation is bound to be structured in such a way that he can never be directly linked to any actions al-Qaeda carries out.
He's definitely guilty of terrorism in the past. I have not been too convinced by the circumstantial evidence given so far and the evidence that is "too sensitive to divulge" is ridiculous. These people flew two planes into the WTC and killed thousands of people. I think the "sensitive" evidence should be made public and just maybe this could make some of the Islamic states that support Bin Laden take a good look at themselves and think again about supporting him and his associates.
In response to Matt, one of the problems with this sort of situation is that the best evidence often cannot be publicly released. Photographs, tape recordings and documents are all too easily traced back to the individuals who made or stole them. If we jeopardise these people by revealing what we have publicly, two things will happen: the source of information will be closed and the people who risked everything to bring it to us will die. It's annoying but necessary that some evidence really does have to stay secret.
Who knows? I haven't seen the evidence, but I trust the intelligence services and the government.
As much as I have faith in the government's decision that Bin Laden is responsible for these attacks, I hope that investigators are still looking at the possibility that it was someone else. I would hate to think that if Bin Laden is innocent, we had been wasting our time, resources and money targeting him and leaving the real culprit to plan more attacks when we are worn out by war on Bin Laden's network.
Beyond the circumstantial evidence, he is a self-confessed criminal simply by having so much opposition. The very fact that he has a huge support base spread all over the world suggests that getting him under lock and key should only be a starting point.
I don't doubt Bin Laden is guilty but the behaviour of the US and our government is almost childish. My doubts started as soon as I heard that the FBI had found the passport of one the terrorists in the rubble of the WTC and then the flight manual in the car. I doubt that the terrorists really needed to learn the details of flying just before they boarded, especially when governments are also saying this terrorist operation was planned for years.
Of course he is. How can some people doubt what the remainder of the world already knows? The Gulf states had more evidence than we did. This is just the start. Countries that couldn't get rid of these cancers now have the chance. Look for Algeria, Kashmir, Lybia and Northern Ireland next.
Like most people outside trusted government and intelligence agencies, I have not seen the evidence. From what we have heard, there would be enough evidence to bring him to trial. Surely it is only a court that can find him "guilty as charged". The question is, would Osama Bin Laden get a fair trial in the US? Given that trials of Muslims have previously been delayed in America I would think that it is a definite possibility that he would not. Maybe before hasty action is taken, Osama Bin Laden should be tried in a neutral court. This could be an international court, or one in a country that cannot be seen as supporting either the west or Arab countries - maybe Japan. If necessary he could be tried in his absence.
I rather fear that I have seen no evidence. I am certain that our US government believes Bin Laden to be responsible, but without proof, all I can believe is that they were desperate for a scapegoat and chose a well-known enemy of America.
Personally, without the proof, I cannot believe a single man is responsible for the attack on the WTC, and I honestly cannot believe that he or al-Qaeda were responsible. I want to see the evidence Washington has been offering to close allies. If it is so compelling, there is no need for secrecy.
S Venkatarman, India
The attacks may have all the hallmarks of Bin Laden. However, that is not any form of proof. It is very easy to say that certain items are classified and that disclosure could harm the source. I think more information and proof should be disclosed. Unfortunately, I cannot accept Tony Blair's word as concrete evidence. It must not be forgotten that it is justice that is being sought, not revenge.
Until all the evidence is presented to the public, the guy is not guilty. Why can't they publish their evidence and let us judge him.
Most of the terrorists who share common jihad sentiments may have links with Bin Laden. The question is whether he is directly involved or not. That has to be determined not by a US court but by an international court.
I think all the evidence should be given to the public so that everyone knows the exact situation.
I think that Blair and Bush should release this information to the world before strikes occur.
No, that will only create confusion for the public and lots of material for media.
Anyone who thinks that Bin Laden has nothing to do with these attacks probably doesn't believe the holocaust happened either.
David K Kayea, Liberia/USA
In response to David K Kayea: This is a hopelessly flawed argument that assumes all countries and leaders are able to conduct a "fair" trial or even look at evidence objectively. The Taliban supports terrorism. They treat women as sub-humans, kill them in football stadiums, starve their own people. In what way are they competent to view or judge any kind of evidence? Would they expect their god come down and tell them if the evidence was real or not? I shudder at the very thought of these fanatics being given any chance to make moral or legal judgements on these murderous acts. That said, I do feel that more evidence must eventually be made public to be conviced that Bin Laden is the mastermind behind the attacks.
I am totally convinced. This murderer has had his day and now it is his turn to be afraid and pay the price. I welcome his death with as much excitement as he awaited the death of several thousand innocent men, women and children. You are the weakest link Osama. Goodbye.
Don't show the evidence to the general public. Get together a group of learned jurists from around the world, who can be trusted to keep a secret, and show the evidence to them.
How can he hope to rise to the right hand of Allah if he did nothing? I'm sure he was connected to the attacks.
Bin Laden and many others are quite delighted that 6000 innocent men and women died horribly violent deaths. They are as guilty as if they had flown the planes into the buildings themselves.
As much as I hate what happened and feel that the culprits need to be punished, I don't feel that the government really know who did it. I reckon that they need to make an example of someone and I guess that someone had to be osama.
Are the Americans really trying to tell us that one man has brought the world's greatest power to its knees all on his own? If so, then it is our own security services who deserve to receive the retaliation, not the Taleban
The 'evidence' is mostly circumstantial. Only a few points actually relate to the September 11 attack. But this does not really matter. What does matter is that the full evidence is heard in an international criminal court, perhaps without Osama Bin Laden's presence. If he is found guilty then further action can be considered, but not before. As the prosecution would presumably be the US, the US would not be a suitable host for the court.
Bin Laden has incriminated himself by the announcements he made after the US attacks. If he really cares about the Afghan people and the Muslim community he would turn himself in and save a devastated nation.
If Osama Bin Laden is innocent, then why doesn't he stand before an international (UN) court? The prosecution need to prove his guilt. If, as some correspondants suggest, there is insufficient evidence then he will walk free.
Any group of people anywhere in the world
could have committed the crimes of September 11th. I would hate to think we're spending all our time working against bin Laden while the real murderer is
I need no proof of bin Laden's guilt; his word is good enough for me. He has spoken his word loudly and clearly. If we kill him "unjustly," so be it. It could not happen too soon.
James Holgate, UK
It is pretty obvious that putting all the evidence in the open would jeopardize both the servicemen and the sources of information. But do we even need to see this information? September 11th is the wake-up call, but bin Laden is already indicted for previous terrorist acts.
I will judge after I am
satisfied that I have
sufficient informtion on
which to base my
Lucy Beck, US
As far as I can see, there is no concrete evidence that says its Bin Laden. Its obvious that he is a supporter of what happened in America - but that doesn't mean he did it.
Bin Laden is unequivocally guilty. The Saudi government conceded to his guilt after reviewing the body of evidence provided by Washington - as have other governments. Proof enough for any reasonable citizen.
05 Oct 01 | Americas
The investigation and the evidence
04 Oct 01 | UK Politics
The UK's Bin Laden dossier in full
04 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Blair hardens public against Bin Laden
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