Note: The following could be construed as an attack on Israel or Zionists. It is not intended to be: more it is a comment on a blatant miscarriage (in my opinion) of justice.
On July 26, 1994, the Israeli embassy and Balfour House (the base of many Zionist headquarters) in London were bombed with two large car bombs. 14 people were injured, none killed, and £1.5m of damage was done to the buildings. 2 years later, on December 11, 1996, a Lebanese-Palestinian woman - Samar Alami - and Palestinian man - Jawad Botmeh - were convicted of the attacks. Each were sentenced to 20 years in prison plus deportation once their sentences are served. The case which leads to their conviction is quite extraordinary: despite the judge involved admitting the evidence was "all circumstantial", and despite the defence totally destroying the prosecution's case, the two were still convicted. Large amounts of evidence were proclaimed inaccesible to the case on grounds of security of 'public interest'. After the trial, it was leaked that MI5 had had warning of the bombing attacks, yet there was no retrial, nor were MI5 expected to give up their evidence. There is a huge campaign underway for a just trial of this ex-Atlantic College student and her friend.
So who are Samar and Jawad?
Much of the evidence that was used to convict Samar and Jawad was based upon their political and humanitarian activities concerning Palestinian human rights. They met through this work. Both had a love of their homeland: Jawad grew up in Bethlehem, West Bank, in a respected family. He moved to England at age 17 to do A levels, then progressed to Leicester University and attained a degree in Electronic Engineering. In Bethlehem, Jawad's cousin and best friend had both been shot by Israeli soldiers, however he did not work for revenge: in the UK Jawad was part of the GUPS - General Union of Palestinian Students, for which he was "Often used as a peacemaker with Israeli students, even when trouble flared". With regards to the bombings and his peaceful humanitarian work, Jawad said "Under no circumstances would we put that (our work for peace) at risk because it fundamentally goes against our ideology, policy and practices. It would be self-harm. Or else why would I, or Samar, ever get involved in student politics and NGOs and spend years campaigning peacefully if what we really wanted to do was use violence against Israelis in London?...They (the bombings) are totally counter-productive." Samer herself came to Britain in 1983 to Atlantic College, a college based on peace and international understanding. She went to university in London and attained degrees in chemical engineering. Like Jawad, she was prominently involved in Palestinian human rights causes, and a member of GUPS. In response to the bombings she said "I condemn the acts because I am against blind violence. I am disappointed there are still problems, there are still bombings. One of the reasons we came to London is to avoid all this trauma."
What's the evidence for the case?
What happened on the day?
On the afternoon of 26th July 1994, a woman described as 'middle eastern looking' drove an Audi into Kensington and parked outside the Israeli embassy. She persuaded the policeman to let her park it there so she could get some cigarettes from a shop round the corner. The car then exploded after she had left. Despite Kensington Park Green being a high security area (the Sultan of Brunei has a residence there!), the security cameras at the Israeli embassy had no film in them. There is disagreement between UK and Israeli guards over such fundamental details as which direction the car came from. There were not any witnesses of the Balfour House bombing. It was not possible to tell what kind of explosives were used as there was no residue left (which indicates a high performance explosive). There were also no traces of a detonation device. Responsibility for the attacks was claimed by the 'Jaffa Unit' of 'Palestinian Resistance'.
So where do Samar and Jawad come into it?
Both the cars used in the attacks had been bought at auctions in Milton Keynes and Birmingham, and both had false number (license) plates. Jawad had gone to the Milton Keynes auction with a friend, Rida Mughrabi, who had asked him to come to help buy a Renault. Mughrabi bought the Audi. The January following the bombings, Jawad was charged with conspiracy to cause explosions. He was arrested under the Prevention of Terorism Act, which means arrests can be made without definite evidence. Samar was also arrested, but bailed in June when masses of letters in support were sent. She was arrested again in June when the police found a locker she'd rented that contained small amounts of explosive, two guns, and some other explosive paraphernalia. Both Samar and Jawad were held in high security prisons as Category A prisoners. Amnesty International included them in a report under the heading "Cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment", such was the deterioration in their health.
Samar and Jawad were charged with conspiring to bomb the Israeli embassy: Jawad had purchased the cars and the chemicals to make the explosives, and Samar had allegedly made them. The police gave a profile of a bomber who was vehemently anti-Zionist, anti peace process, anti Israeli and anti Arafat. This profile was to fit Jawad. As it became clear that Samar and Jawad did not bomb the embassy, the goalposts were moved to 'involvement' in the bombing. The prosecution's case rested on the purchase of the cars at the auction in Milton Keynes (which it appears that Mughrabi did under a fasle name) by Mughrabi and Jawad. Jawad often used false names when buying cars (which was his hobby) to avoid paying road tax. The locker with explosives was used as evidence against Samar. Both had, due to the nature of their activist actvities, recieved plenty of mail with anti-Israeli sentiments. Samar had clippings from Palestinian and Israeli newspapers, which the prosecution claimed demonstrated her anti-Israeli views. She also had one music record that had 'Jaffa' on the front - the name of the group that had claimed the attack. All this was used to link Samar and Jawad with the attacks. They were convicted with conspiracy and sentenced to 20 years in prison each, plus deportation.
Why the conviction is wrong
There are so many inadequacies with the evidence used in the case: firstly, the simple fact that none of the evidence really links to Samar and Jawad. Samar, for one, has an alibi for the timing of the bombings; she was using a public phone box to make a call. Originally, she did not remember this, which the prosecution picked up on - but surely someone who had a false alibi would not 'forget' it! Also, she had ample opportunity to escape, had she wanted, yet she returned to the UK after trips to the Lebanon and France. Secondly, the type of explosives found in Samar's locker, TATP, is highly unstable in large amounts, and would be spectacularly difficult to make into a carbomb sizes explosive device. Samar had these in her possession as she had been experimenting on a small scale with exlosives (perhaps unsurprising for an enthusiastic engineer) and had been unable to blow up even a tree, let alone a car.
The situation with Rida Mughrabi, ex PLO member, has not been solved, yet the police are spectacularly uninterested in him, yet he appears to be a key individual in the attacks, having purchased the cars and provided Samar with the explosives.
The judge of the case called all the evidence "purely circumstantial", and the police admit that the case is not solved. Surely, then, it is not right for these two people to be spending their youth in high security prisons? Particularly since the leaks by David Shayler that MI5 had prior knowledge of the bombings: Samar and Jawad's lawyer has appealed to the Director of Public Prosecutions about this, however, the head of the DPP was the chief prosecution counsel at the trial - and the conviction of Samar and Jawad was one of the events that lead to his appointment at the DPP, so he is not hugely approachable!
There are many conspiracy theories about this bizarre sequence of events and trial: conspiracies that point to MI5, the Israeli government, pressure groups, the British government and so on. The irrational swing of the judge's opinion in the last 48 hours of the trial, the excessively heavy sentences, and the attempt by an Israeli journalist to give a phone number to a member of the jury only adds fuel to this fire. Samar and Jawad are now being held as Catagory A prisoners, meaning the highest security and most unpleasant conditions. Their appeals for a fair trial have been rejected, as have their appications to be moved to better standard accommodation. They are due to be released and deported in 2016.
For sources and information please go to http://www.freesaj.org.uk