MI5 `bury' evidence in bombing

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The Independent Online
APPEAL COURT judges will hold a secret hearing at the Strand Law courts today to decide whether a Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificate should prevent lawyers for two convicted Palestinians hearing evidence they believe may support their case.

Samar Alami and Jawad Botmi were convicted in 1996 of conspiracy to bomb the Israeli embassy in London. New evidence suggests that MI5 were warned that the attack in 1994 was going to take place.

The two Palestinians are now serving 20 years in British prisons for their alleged part in the attack. But they have named the man they believe carried out the bombing as a Palestinian called Reda Moghrabi and suspect that they were "set up" for arrest.

When David Shayler, the former MI5 officer, revealed in the Mail on Sunday 11 months after their conviction that MI5 had received advance warning of the attack, Alami's solicitor, Gareth Peirce, immediately demanded to see the information which Shayler's colleagues had received.

The Home Secretary Jack Straw overruled MI5's attempt to suppress details of the case and allowed the Mail on Sunday to reveal that the MI5 report was "buried" in a cupboard where it was only found after the bombing.

MI5 had failed to pass on the details either to the police or to the Israelis themselves. Unless the appeal judges decide otherwise today, however, lawyers for the defence may never know details of the warning.

In the aftermath of the Gulf War, the government placed PII certificates on security documents which showed that the Board of Trade had approved the sale of items of military use to Iraq by the firm Matrix Churchill.

Only when a judge ruled for their disclosure did the prosecution abandon its case against Matrix Churchill officials. "The method of dealing with this sort of material through PIIs is very questionable," a lawyer involved in European law said yesterday.

"It involves a hearing between the prosecution and a judge or appeal judges in the absence of the defence. This is a practice that is being challenged in the European courts."

Oddly, news of the forthcoming secret hearing does not appear to have been disclosed to the defence - as it should have been under law - and we may never know what was said.

Alami, who said she received explosives from Moghrabi for experiments with bombs which could be used against Israeli military targets near the Lebanese border, denies any involvement in the 1994 attack on the London embassy. Although the police acknowledged that the bomber was never arrested, they have shown no interest in finding Moghrabi.