British terror trial defendant refuses to give evidence

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A man charged with planning terrorist explosions in Britain refused to continue testifying yesterday, saying he feared it would cause difficulties for his family in Pakistan.

"Before we go on to that topic, I just want to say the ISI (the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence) in Pakistan has had words with my family relating to what I have been saying about them," said Omar Khyam, 24, the first of the seven defendants to testify at their trial.

"I think they are worried I might reveal more about them, so right now, as much as I want to clarify matters, the priority for me has to be the safety of my family so I am going to stop.

"I am not going to discuss anything related to the ISI any more or the evidence."

The trial was adjourned for an hour while lawyers conferred about the development.

When the session resumed, the Judge Michael Astill warned Khyam: "If you refuse to answer questions, the jury may draw such inferences as appears proper from your failure to do so."

Khyam answered "yes" when asked if he understood.

The trial did not resume, and proceedings were suspended for the day.

Khyam, his brother Shujah Mahmood, 19, Waheed Mahmood, 34, Jawad Akbar, 23, Salahuddin Amin, 31, Anthony Garcia, 24, of Ilford, and Nabeel Hussain, 21, deny conspiring to set off explosions likely to endanger life between January 1, 2003 and March 31, 2004.

Khyam, Garcia and Hussain also deny a charge under the Terrorism Act of possessing 1,300 pound (600 kilograms) of ammonium nitrate fertilizer for terrorism.

Khyam and Shujah Mahmood also deny possessing aluminum powder for the purposes of terrorism.