In a speech to the UN in February 2003, Colin Powell advised that Iraq and Osama bin Laden were supporting and directing terrorist poison cells throughout Europe. He referred to the killing of Detective Constable Stephen Oakes in Manchester and a raid on a poison cell producing Ricin in London and claimed they demonstrated a link between Saddam Hussein's regime and al-Qaida. The Government have referred to the discovery of the poison cell to fuel fears of a chemical or biological strike against the West so that they can defend their dodgy war and the reductions in our liberty.
Until now, a media blanket (in place while the trials were conducted) prevented the truth from coming out.
Kamel Bourgass was been found guilty of conspiring to cause a public nuisance through the use of poisons and explosives but innocent of conspiracy to murder. Last year he was found guilty of the murder of Detective Constable Stephen Oake, who he stabbed while trying to escape police custody. Charles Clarke, the home secretary claimed a victory, stating "What the case showed was that there are terrorist organisations which seek to challenge us in this country and challenge our basic freedom."
What the case actually showed was that Bourgass, a failed asylum seeker who went underground, was a violent man who concocted elaborate home-made toxins, many of which didn't work. However, there was no "Ricin ring". In fact, Government labs confirmed on January 7th 2003 that there was no Ricin in the London flat. Four other Algerian men have been cleared of being part of any conspiracy, and a second conspiracy trial against four different men has been abandoned.
The trial revealed that government claims that Ricin had been found continued long after their own scientists concluded there was none. On 6 February 2003, the day after Powell's UN speech, Blair referred to the Ricin threat in a televised appeal for public backing on Iraq.
What the Police actually found in London were amateurish instructions for making ricin, cyanide and botulinum, and a list of chemicals used in explosives. The prosecution claimed the documents had come from a training camp in Afghanistan and referred to an "al-Qaida handbook". Duncan Campbell (the expert brought in to determine the source of the documents) confirmed that the recipes were untested and unoriginal, and largely taken from US Survivalist sources on the internet.
Yet a fortnight after Campbell showed to the court that the chemical list was an exact copy of pages on an internet site based in California, David Blunkett stated "Al-Qaida and the international network is seen to be, and will be demonstrated through the courts over months to come, actually on our doorstep and threatening our lives." Lord Goldsmith (the trial judge) was highly critical of Mr Blunkett's comments, but concluded that the comments did not quite amount to contempt of court.
The expert also confirmed that far from being a weapon of mass destruction, Ricin is only really useful for individual poisoning and hard to produce in any quantity. He concluded that while Bourgass would clearly like to cause harm to British citizens, he was not actually capable of organising a mass attack and was working alone - "he was an Islamist yobbo on his own, not an Al Qaida-trained superterrorist".
The prosecution claimed that Bourgass and the other men were a crack terrorist cell planning to kill people by smearing Ricin on door handles in Holloway, north London. Professor Hay (expert in biochemical poisons) advised the court "With these recipes they could not have killed people. Ricin is not absorbed through the skin." The defence said the allegations against the other men amounted to no more than a "massive conspiracy tapestry". The jury agreed.
Azad Ali of the Muslim Safety Forum noted "the Ricin plot was part of government thinking and public justification in bringing in control orders. This will confirm the feeling in the Muslim community that it is being victimised on the basis of intelligence that was not tested in anything like a court, and when it is, it is thrown out."
Howard has blamed failings in the government's immigration policy for allowing Bourgass to remain in Britain after his asylum claim was rejected. In response, Alan Milburn issued an apology and challenged Howard to state his position on Labour's ID Card legislation. So instead of apologising for creating a climate of fear, Labour and the Tories are busy making things worse.
Bourgass was not a nice bloke, but wasn't very good at being a terrorist. If he was a crack assassin sent by al-Qaida, we don't have much to worry about. I certainly do not agree that people like Bourgass constitute a threat in excess of anything Hitler, the IRA and the cold war could deliver.