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Last Updated: Monday, 15 January 2007, 15:24 GMT
Prosecutor seeks maximum impact
By Chris Summers
BBC News, Woolwich Crown Court

Police tape off a section of Hackney Road on 21 July
The public were spared by good fortune, the prosecution said
Six men have gone on trial accused of conspiring to set off a series of bombs on London's transport network a fortnight after the 7 July attacks in 2005.

After playing a video showing a 5kg bomb exploding during a test firing in a quarry, prosecutor Nigel Sweeney QC turned to the jury.

"Imagine that on a tube train or on a bus," he said.

The jury at Woolwich Crown Court in London could be in no doubt of the seriousness of the charges which had been denied by the men in the dock after hearing Mr Sweeney open the case for the Crown.

Bespectacled and white-haired, Mr Sweeney adopted a no-nonsense style as he tore straight into the evidence in the case.

Aided by a series of short videos showing test firing carried out by forensic scientists and explosives experts he went into great detail about the bombs, which he claimed were designed to kill.

Nigel Sweeney QC
It was the good fortune of the travelling public that they were spared
Nigel Sweeney QC

He said one of the bombers, Hussein Osman, on his arrest in Italy, had claimed the bombs were "a deliberate hoax in order to make a political point".

Mr Sweeney added: "Given the weight of the evidence as to his involvement, what could he say?"

The Crown claims four of the defendants detonated their bombs but the main charge failed to explode. A fifth defendant, Manfo Asiedu, had "lost his nerve" and dumped his bomb in a park in west London, according to the prosecution.

Mr Sweeney said tests carried out on the bombs showed the chemicals used were not mixed to the concentration required for them to explode.

He said: "Whether it was problems with the manufacture, with composition of the mixtures or with the hot weather on 21 July affecting the chemicals, the failure of these bombs to explode owed nothing to the intentions of these defendants - rather it was simply the good fortune of the travelling public that day that they were spared."

The six defendants, all but one of them smartly attired in suits and ties, listened intently as Mr Sweeney spoke.

'Suicide missions'

The massed ranks of journalists scribbled notes furiously.

Mr Sweeney then listed a number of factors which, he said, proved the defendants had been intent on suicide bombing missions.

These included:

  • Several of the defendants were known to be sympathetic towards "acts of extremist Islamic terrorism"

  • Police found home-made videos showing beheadings and other atrocities including 9/11 in one of their flats

  • One of the defendants had undergone military training in Sudan and Pakistan

  • One of the defendants had made a suicide note which was found at a friend's house

  • There was no sign that the bombers had planned what to do after the bombings

Monday was the first day of what could be a very long trial.

The courthouse is right next door to Belmarsh prison in south-east London but from the outside it looks like the anonymous headquarters of any large firm.

Only the armed police on operation and the large number of TV satellite trucks parked outside gave a clue as to what was transpiring inside.

The jury has yet to hear from any of the defence lawyers.

But if the intense interest from the media, signalled by the presence of scores of journalists, is anything to go by then it will remain in the headlines for several months.

Six men on trial for alleged plot

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