Terror trial fails over identity of MI5 agent

A £3m trial against three alleged Algerian terrorists collapsed yesterday after an MI5 undercover agent refused to give evidence in court.

The Crown told the Old Bailey that the Security Service's undercover source was refusing to accept a judge's ruling that he should be identified in court because it would put his, and his family's lives, at risk.

An operation in 1997 by MI5 and Scotland Yard uncovered a terrorist cache in London that was destined for use in political violence in Algeria, the prosecution had alleged. Sofiane Kebilene, Farid Boukemiche, both from Peckham, and Sofiane Souidi, from Bermondsey, all in south London, had denied possession of articles for suspected terrorist purposes.

Yesterday, Nigel Sweeney, for the prosecution, said the Crown was "driven" to offer no evidence against the three defendants. He said various formulae for getting the agent to co-operate had failed, adding: "We are not prepared to putthe life of the source and his family at risk."

The three were formally found not guilty by the judge.

Kebilene and Boukemiche are still facing sentence on charges of possession of false documents, and Kebilene alone on deception charges, which they admitted.