Brother and sister cleared of ties to Tel Aviv bombing

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The Independent Online

The brother and sister of a would-be British suicide bomber have been cleared of failing to alert authorities about his mission in Israel.

Zahid and Parveen Sharif were accused of knowing their brother Omar Sharif had plotted to blow himself up along with another Briton, Asif Hanif, at Mike's Place club in Tel Aviv in April 2003.

Hanif's bomb detonated, killing three and wounding 65 but Sharif fled after failing to set off his bomb. His decomposed body was found floating off the Mediterranean coast almost two weeks later.

The brother and sister were charged under new laws that put a positive duty on people to inform the police of any impending terrorist attack, even overseas. This is the first time anyone has been tried with the new offence, which falls under Section 38 of the Terrorism Act 2000, introduced after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States.

Parveen Sharif was also found not guilty at the Old Bailey of inciting her brother to go through with the bombing. It emerged after the trial that she had been warned for reportedly telling pupils at a school where she was teaching that she was on Osama bin Laden's "team".

Parveen Sharif, 37, and her brother Zahid Sharif, 38, both from Derby, hugged in the dock at the end of the case yesterday.

The court was told that Omar Sharif and Hanif, a student from Hounslow in west London, were recruited by the Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas in England before travelling to Israel.

After the bombing, police found two e-mails which formed the basis of the case against Sharif's family.

The first, sent by Omar to Zahid, warned that "difficult times may lie ahead" for his family and to "get rid of any material you may consider problematic".

The second, sent by Ms Sharif seven days before the attack, told Omar to "stay focused and determined". "There is no time to be weak and emotional," it said.

The brother and sister denied the charges, saying that they had no idea what Omar Sharif was planning and that the e-mails had been misinterpreted.

Ms Sharif, a primary school teacher, was also acquitted of encouraging her brother to carry out the bombing at the Israeli club.

The case was a retrial after a jury last year failed to reach a verdict. Omar's wife, Tahira, was cleared at the first trial of failing to disclose information.

Giving evidence in her defence, Parveen Sharif said it was sick to suggest that she sent her brother an e-mail a week before he targeted the Israeli bar to encourage him on his mission.

"That is such a sick idea. I did not want Tahira to be a widow or their kids to be fatherless."

After the court case it was disclosed that during pre-trial submissions Parveen Sharif had allegedly said to children she was teaching in 2001: "Hands up everybody who has got relations in New York."

At least 10 pupils claimed that after waiting for a response, she allegedly said: "Well, they're dead." She also allegedly told other children that she was on Osama bin Laden's "team".

Following the alleged remarks, Grampian Primary School, in Sinfin, Derby, complained to Ms Sharif's employers and said they did not want to re-employ her as a supply teacher.

A spokesman for her then employer, Select Education plc, said: "These reports were both made in the week commencing 15 October 2001, and, once brought to our attention, were immediately discussed with her.

"Parveen Sharif accepted that the comments were inappropriate and undertook not to repeat them."

Evidence from former pupils was outlined to the court, but a judge ruled it should not go before jurors.

Outside court yesterday Mr Sharif read out a statement on behalf of himself and his sister. "We want to make it clear we did not know what our brother was going to do. It shocked us as much as everyone else and we are still shocked.

"There were many misunderstandings about our religion and culture in this case but people tried to reach out and understand."