THE 2003 RICIN PLOT
* FRANCE ;
On 12/17/2002 the French police arrested a group of 8 Algerian suspects in Lyon led by Menad Benchelalli and Merouane Benhamed on suspicion of manufacturing Ricin. The Lyon Cell was charged in 2004 for preparing a chemical attack on the Russian Embassy in Paris. The defendants were sentenced on 06/12/2006 to 10 years in prison for an attempt at “chemical” terror attack on the Russian embassy and other sites in Paris (see also – Karim Bourti ).
* GREAT BRITAIN – U.K ;
The London Police arrested 6 Algerians on 01/07/2003 in Manchester and a few days later, on 01/13/2003, in North London, a special branch policeman, Stephen Oake, was stabbed to death by an Algerian, Kamel Bourgass , during the arrest of other 3 suspects.
All 8 suspects were later acquitted from all charges related to the Ricin plot, except Kamel Bourgass. He was convicted on 04/13/2005 for being a senior operative of Al Qaeda in UK and for the intention to use Ricin as a mean of terror. From the 8 suspects released 6 were rearrested on 09/15/2005 under immigration law regulations with intention to send them back to Algiers.
After being acquitted in the Ricin Plot trial, one of the detainees Mouloud Sihali (30) won ruling against his deportation back to Algeria on Monday 05/14/2007.The judge said that there was no “evidence or intelligence that he has ever been a principled Islamist extremist”.
* ITALY ;
Following the arrests in UK, the Italian police arrested in 01/20/2003 in Rovigo Province, Northeast Italy, a group of Algerians that had connections with the detainees in UK but all were released after few weeks without charges.
* SPAIN – BARCELONA ;
On the 01/24/2003 the Spanish Police raided 12 sites in Barcelona in connection with the Ricin Plot. The police arrested 16 people, all from Algerian and Moroccan origin, and found forged identity documents and a relatively big amount of cleaning detergents. 14 of the detainees were released on bail after six weeks on 03/2003. The ringleader of the group, Mohamed Tahraoui , and another suspect remain in jail. Only later an FBI analysis suggested that the seized materials could be made into “homemade napalm”.
After the Madrid Trains Bombing , on 03/11/2004, the Spanish Judge, Baltasar Garzon , ordered on 03/24/2004 the re arrest of 4 suspects for possible connection to the Madrid Trains Bombing offenders.
All the six detainees were charged on fraud and membership in a terror organization. 5 were convicted and sentenced on 02/09/2007 to 13 years in jail. A sixth man was acquitted.
From the dozens arrested in Europe in January 2003 in connection with the Ricin Plot, Except the Lyon Cell in France, only 3 were charged on that issue, although some of them were convicted on other offenses related to Islamic terror in Europe.
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