CST Blog

Manchester terrorism trial - pair accused of planning bombing attacks on Jews, court hears

21 June 2012

The trial in Manchester of Shasta Khan for various terrorism offences began yesterday with the first part of the prosecution case against her.

This included the revelation that her husband, Mohammed Sajid Khan, has pleaded guilty to related terrorism offences for their alleged plot to carry out bombing attacks on the Manchester Jewish community.

The Jewish Chronicle reports:

A court has heard how a husband and wife “were in the early stages” of preparing bombs allegedly to blow up Manchester's Jewish community.

Mohammed Sajid Khan, 33, pleaded guilty to planning terrorist attacks against Manchester's Jews at an earlier hearing, which could not be reported for legal reasons.

Now, Mohammed's wife Shasta Khan, 38, from Oldham, is facing the same charge of engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism and three counts of possessing information linked to al Qaeda likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

Mrs Khan's trial, which opened at Manchester Crown Court on Wednesday, heard how the hairdresser and her husband had allegedly accessed bomb-making manuals linked with al-Qaeda, over the internet. It is also alleged they were in the early stages of producing a home-made bomb at their marital address, which doubled as Mrs Khan's hairdressing salon.

Little is yet known about the intended targets, although opening the prosecution, counsel Bobbie Cheema told the jury that the couple began “to make preparations to carry out a terrorist attack on British soil, with the most likely target being an Orthodox Jewish area in Prestwich. Between them they made preparations, and acquired substances bought in supermarkets and information to help them in making explosives, and began the process of assembling an improvised explosive device.”

The Guardian includes some more detail regarding the evidence against the couple:

The prosecution say the pair became radicalised in 2010 and 2011 by material they found on the internet, which had the aim of encouraging western Muslims to carry out jihad by mounting attacks in their own countries, independent of direction.

"In response, the two of them made preparations or assisted each other to make preparations, to carry out a terrorist attack on British soil, with the most likely target being an orthodox Jewish area in Prestwich, Greater Manchester," she said.

The prosecutor said that the couple were caught at the preparation stage: "They did not achieve the production of a functioning bomb. They scoped possible locations for an attack, but did not yet have the final ability to carry it out."

She said the path from radicalisation to the commission of a terrorist "atrocity" could be disrupted for many reasons. Some people might give up or change their minds, others might be exposed by the actions of the authorities.

In Shashta Khan's case, the "internal domestic crisis within their partnership" interrupted the progress towards committing a terrorist act.

Khan had been charged with offences that were not dependent on a completed terrorist attack; nor did it make any difference when she was arrested, she had still intended to carry out an attack.

"The offences she is charged with reflect what are, necessarily, preparatory stages, no more."

The court heard the pair met through an internet dating site for Muslims and quickly married, but were having disagreements by July last year. When an officer investigating a domestic incident spoke to Khan on her own, "she took it as an opportunity to spill the beans about the activities Sajid Khan had been undertaking".

But the prosecutor added: "As you might expect, she left out of her account entirely her own involvement."

It was her intention to cause serious trouble for her husband, but she had given no thought to the possible consequences for herself."

The jury heard that as soon as an allegation of terrorism was made, a substantial police operation began.

Cheema said: "Within a few days she was under suspicion as much as the man she had decided, in that late-night disclosure, to accuse.

"Furthermore, evidence came to light which incriminates her as much as her husband, and that is why they were both charged with those offences and why she is in the dock today."

The trial is expected to take three weeks. CST will continue to post updates on this blog throughout the trial.

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