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Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2007, 17:21 GMT
Terror trial lawyer defends jury
Clockwise (from top left): Jawad Akbar, Omar Khyam, Shujah Mahmood, Waheed Mahmood, Anthony Garcia, Salahuddin Amin.
Shujah Mahmood (top right) was oblivious to any conspiracy, said his QC
A lawyer has made an outspoken defence of the jury system at the conclusion of a year-long terrorism trial.

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC is representing Shujah Mahmood, one of seven defendants who deny plotting to cause explosions in the London area.

She said there may be calls to abandon juries in similarly lengthy cases.

But she said that however hard the trial had been for all involved, the jurors involved were the "lifeblood of our system."

Shujah Mahmood is one of seven men who all deny conspiracy to cause an explosion in the UK using ammonium nitrate fertiliser.

He is also charged with possession of aluminium powder for the purposes of terrorism.

Baroness Kennedy said the trial, which started in March last year, was one of the first cases involving allegations of terrorism linked to Islamic fundamentalism.

'Law is at core of society'

She told the jury that what they were doing would be one of the most important things in their lives.

"Because you are drawn from the public at large you represent something more - you signify law is not left to lawyers or judges; it is not some specialist preoccupation. Law is at the core of our society," she said.

Baroness Kennedy said the jury would have asked themselves at the start of the trial why young British-born men had become militant.

Baroness Kennedy
Why would young British-born men become militant? Young men who are so like every other young Brit, who speak estuary English, who wear Nike trainers and sports kit and who fancy girls and for the most part like movies and music and eat at McDonald's
Baroness Kennedy QC

She said: "I imagine that, like me, you started this case with the word 'Why?' at the front of your minds.

"Why would young British-born men become militant? Young men who are so like every other young Brit, who speak estuary English, who wear Nike trainers and sports kit and who fancy girls and for the most part like movies and music and eat at McDonald's."

She said her client did not have the "mental element" to bomb London.

He did not know of any such plan, he knew nothing about the purchase of fertiliser, the storing of it or any plans for making a bomb.

She said the jury had first to be convinced by the prosecution that there had been a conspiracy and then they had to be convinced, beyond reasonable doubt, that Shujah had been involved in it.

She said that, although he may have attended some meetings with his brother, he did not take part and did not have the mental capacity to comprehend what was being discussed.

"The bottom line is that to be guilty of conspiracy you have to have knowledge, agreement and participation. You can't be an accidental conspirator," she said.

'Groomed'

She said Shujah was being "slowly groomed" into the movement by his older brother, Omar Khyam, but was kept out of anything important.

Shujah was on the "conveyor belt" of young people being drawn into "jihadi" terrorism, but it stopped before he became fully involved.

Earlier, Michel Massih QC concluded his closing speech on behalf of Waheed Mahmood by urging the jury not to be swayed by the fact his client had not given evidence on his own behalf.

He said: "It is for the Crown to displace the presumption of innocence and at the end of your deliberations you should not say 'Why did he not give evidence?'

"You should say 'Has the prosecution convinced me beyond reasonable doubt that Waheed Mahmood was part of a conspiracy to use the fertiliser to cause explosions in the UK?'"

The brothers deny conspiring to cause explosions likely to endanger life between 1 January, 2003 and 31 March, 2004, along with Waheed Mahmood, 34, and Jawad Akbar, 23, of Crawley; Salahuddin Amin, 31, from Luton, Bedfordshire; Anthony Garcia, 24, of Barkingside, east London; and Nabeel Hussain, 21, of Horley, Surrey.

Mr Khyam, Mr Garcia and Mr Hussain deny a further charge under the Terrorism Act of possessing 1,300lb (600kg) of ammonium nitrate fertiliser for terrorism.

The brothers also deny possessing aluminium powder for terrorism.




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