Three face second retrial over airliner bomb plot

Three men cleared of planning to bomb transatlantic airliners were today facing the prospect of being retried on charges of conspiracy to murder.

Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, last night revealed he had decided to try Ibrahim Savant, Arafat Waheed Khan and Waheed Zaman for a third time.

They were among eight men tried in connection with an al Qaida-inspired plot to detonate home-made liquid bombs on board flights bound for major north American cities.

On Monday Abdulla Ahmed Ali 28, of Walthamstow, east London, Assad Sarwar, 29, of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and Tanvir Hussain, 28, of Leyton, east London, were found guilty at London's Woolwich Crown Court of conspiracy to murder by detonating bombs on airliners.

Savant, 28, of Denver Road, Stoke Newington, Khan, 28, of Farnan Avenue, Walthamstow and Zaman, 25, of Queen's Road, Walthamstow, were found not guilty of the airliner plot, but the jury failed to reach verdicts on charges of conspiracy to murder. A jury also failed to reach verdicts on the trio in 2008.

Mr Starmer said: "Although I recognise that it is common practice for prosecutors in England and Wales to offer no evidence against a defendant if two previous juries have been unable to agree, that is no more than a convention and my task is to judge whether, taking into account all relevant considerations, the public interest is better served in this particular case by offering no evidence or by seeking a further retrial."

He said there was "a realistic prospect of convictions" and therefore it was in the public interest, "in this exceptional case", to seek a third trial.

The final decision on the retrial will rest with a judge.

Abdulla Ahmed Ali 28, of Walthamstow, east London, Assad Sarwar, 29, of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and Tanvir Hussain, 28, of Leyton, east London, were found guilty of conspiracy to murder by detonating bombs on airliners.

The counter-terrorism operation was the largest ever mounted in the UK. Police and security services spent more than £35 million on foiling the plot.

The arrests of the gang in August 2006 sparked tight restrictions on carrying liquids on to aircraft which initially caused travel chaos.

Mr Starmer also said has decided not to seek the retrial of Umar Islam, 31, of Bushey Road, Plaistow.

The jury failed to reach a verdict on the charge that he knew of the airliner plot but convicted him of conspiracy to murder.

Ali, Sarwar, Hussain and Islam will be sentenced on Monday.

An eighth man, Donald Stewart-Whyte, 23, of Hepplewhite Close, High Wycombe, was found not guilty of both conspiracy to murder on aircraft and conspiracy to murder.