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This is an appeal by the families of Khobaib Hussain & Naweed Ali to raise much needed funds to fight a miscarriage of justice; the wrongful conviction of Naweed Ali, Khobaib Hussain, Mohibur Rahman and Tahir Aziz. They were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in August 2017. They were arrested in August 2016, and 5 years on we continue to fight for justice for them. We will never give up.
The prosecution case was that the four men were party to a plot to carry out a terrorist attack in the UK. The key evidence was that of a multi coloured JD Sports drawstring bag containing a part-constructed pipe bomb, a Beretta (an imitation firearm) with a magazine taped to it, a knife, shotgun cartridges, a single bullet, a roll of tape and some napkins that was found behind the driver’s seat of Naweed’s car during a covert operation by the Security Services.
Naweed had given the car keys to his new boss on his first day at work as a courier. The courier company, Hero Couriers, was in fact a fake company that had been set up as part of a joint operation between the Security Services and the police (a secret undercover police unit known as “The Special Project’s Team” and West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit) and his ‘boss’ was the key prosecution witness in the trial, under cover officer “Vincent”. Khobaib, a close friend of Naweed had also been working for the same courier company for a number of weeks before their arrest.
The prosecution tried to link Khobaib to the JD Sports bag by relying on evidence from Vincent that he had seen Khobaib in possession of an identical multi coloured JD Sports drawstring bag on previous occasions. In his evidence at trial, after the inconsistencies between the observations recorded in his notebook and the surveillance and other debriefing notes were put to him, Vincent rowed back from the statement that he had previously seen Khobaib carrying an identical multi coloured bag. There was no evidence to support Vincent. Despite having been under intense surveillance for some months prior to his arrest Khobaib was never seen with the bag in question. Khobaib had visited a JD Sports shop during this period and had left with a JD Sports drawstring bag. The police later recovered CCTV of Khobaib leaving the shop with a drawstring bag but it was black and white not multi coloured.
The recovery of the bag and its contents
Naweed drove to the courier unit from home in his own car for his first day at work. He left his car and car keys without hesitation with Vincent.
Vincent was alone in the courier unit with the car for approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes. Naweed left the premises at approximately 7.24am but Vincent did not inform MI5 (who were coming to install surveillance devices in MI5’s car) that he was ready for them until 8.20am. At trial, he had no explanation for this delay. On arrival at the unit the MI5 agents searched Naweed’s car and discovered the multi-coloured JD Sports bag under the driver’s seat.
Would anyone leave their car and car keys ‘without hesitation’ (Vincent’s own words during the trial) with a stranger on their first day at work, knowing that there was a bag containing those items under the driver’s seat? Would they drive to and from work with such a bag if they were planning to commit a terrorist attack?
The central question at trial was whether the bag and its contents belonged to Naweed or whether it was planted in his car by Vincent.
There was no evidence to link Naweed to the bag or its contents. No DNA and no fingerprints. He was never seen carrying the bag or even any similar looking bag despite being under almost constant surveillance, including on the morning that he left home to drive to the courier firm. There was no evidence linking him or the others to any of the contents of the bag. No internet searches, no purchases made, no suspicious meetings where the items might have been acquired. No discussions about the items or of a plan to commit an act of terrorism.
Failed police attempt to link Khobaib to the contents in the JD sports bag….via sticky tape and napkins
Why would an imitation firearm have a magazine taped to it with sticky tape? Why were the napkins in the bag? Close to the end of the trial the prosecution claimed for the first time to have evidence that Khobaib’s DNA was on the sticky tape. The defence instructed their own experts to conduct tests. They took DNA samples from Khobaib’s family, and discovered that the DNA was predominantly that of Khobaib’s sister.
Khobaib and his sister shared a car. She gave evidence at his trial about how she used to leave napkins in her car. Khobaib used to leave his car with Vincent when he went on his deliveries. Vincent therefore had plenty of opportunities to take a napkin from the car, wipe it around the steering wheel, and rub it on to a roll of sticky tape? Why else would there be napkins in the bag?
This was clearly Vincent’s failed attempt to plant a sample of what he assumed would be Khobaib’s DNA in the bag, but he got the wrong DNA.
There is nothing to link Naweed to the JD sports bag and its contents, and so as far as Khobaib is concerned - the wrong JD Sports bag and the wrong DNA.
During the trial, Vincent said that he wrote in his police notebook daily in different locations, using whatever pen was to hand; this was proven to be a lie because he had made a significant mistake and made entries in the wrong date order. Making an entry about something before it had happened! The notebook was clearly written in the same pen. He was the only officer in the case that wrote his notebook by hand rather than use the digital system. There were text messages that proved the notebook had been written after he said it had.
The re-writing of police notebooks was the reason why many convictions in the past were overturned, the Birmingham 6 (wrongly convicted men of the Birmingham Pub bombings), the Guildford 4 (wrongly convicted of the Guildford Pub bombings), the Tottenham 3 (wrongly convicted of the murder of PC Blakelock) and numerous of wrongly convicted defendants at the hands of the disbanded West Midlands Serious Crime Squad.
Falsifying notebooks is a criminal act and in those cases, once discovered, led to the immediate suspension of the police officers concerned, and investigations conducted by outside police forces. Shockingly no such investigation took place in this case; the trial continued and Vincent was permitted to retain his blanket anonymity.
There are too many areas of concern to mention but some further examples include:
Police phones were seized during the trial, and messages showed that Vincent was predicting every aspect of the evidence before it was “found” by the Security Service witnesses or analysed by experts. He described to others the contents of the JD Sports bag before they had been identified. He described the firearm to his supervisor as a “Beretta air pistol” at a time when all other witnesses had described it to be a real self loading pistol. It was not discovered to be an air pistol until a firearms expert identified it as such later that evening and considerably after Vincent’s description.
He described the JD Sports bag before it had been removed from the car – the photographs taken by MI5 officers during the search showed that the JD Sports logo was not visible.
He predicted in text messages to an MI5 officer that something would be recovered from a search of Naweed’s car.
He sent a sent text message saying, “It’s a sticky tape story” with a winking emoji. He could give no explanation for the text when questioned about it at trial. Although the obvious inference is that it was a reference to Khobaib’s DNA that he had put on the sticky tape in the bag.
The unusual level of concern of Vincent and his undercover colleague “Andy” about their activities in the unit having been recorded after MI5 left the unit - “cud u check with BSS (British Security Services) that the tec they fitted in Naweed Ali’s car isn’t running/recording and won’t have been wen we were in unit earlier etc? Thanx”. When asked about this at trial they had no sensible explanation for why they had been so concerned about whether they might have been recorded that morning.
Undercover officer “Haji” was sent away from the unit by Vincent on a bogus exercise. Vincent told him that “something had developed” long before the bag was found.
Vincent lied in his evidence about not talking to officers (some of whom were also witnesses in the case) during the course of giving evidence. When later confronted by evidence from his phone proving that he had lied he struggled to come up with an explanation.
Was anonymity justified?
Undercover police and Security Service witnesses enjoy the unique protection of anonymity. Their identities are never allowed to be known and their personal circumstances never to be investigated. It was discovered during the trial that Vincent was a firearms enthusiast who visited shotgun ranges. He refused to confirm whether he held a shotgun license. Shotgun cartridges were a key feature of the contents of the JD Sports bag. The defence were unable to pursue any enquiries about his possession or use of a shotgun and his premises were not searched.
During the trial, Vincent was proven to be a consistent liar. This should have been enough for the Judge to strip him of the protection of anonymity. This would have enabled the defence to conduct proper enquiries into issues relevant to the defence. His movements, purchase history, gun license, attendance at shot gun ranges and so forth.
Why did the Jury give the wrong verdict?
There were four terrorist attacks in the UK during the course of the trial. The first was the terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge on the 22nd March 2017, just as the trial was beginning. There had not been an attack on civilians in London since 2005. There were then three further terrorist attacks – the attack on the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, the London Bridge attack and the attack near the Finsbury Park Mosque. The sheer horror of such events would inevitably have had an impact upon the jury.
The defence case was that an undercover police officer had planted a bag and fabricated evidence. It required a full bloodied criticism of the conduct of the police and Security Services at a time when both were being praised as heroes and a policeman had been killed.
The pressure to convict was huge despite the evidence.
The defence applied for the trial to be adjourned and the jury to be discharged due to the heightened climate following the terrorist attacks. The judge refused the request by the defence and ruled the defendants could have a fair trial.
We are counting on your support to help us continue in our fight to achieve justice for the men and to return them to their families. Naweed and Khobaib’s legal team have been working pro bono on this case since their convictions. They have worked tirelessly to re-examine the evidence and identify new avenues of inquiry and investigation. We need your support to help with the cost of expert fees so that important new lines of inquiry, in particular forensics, can be pursued and we hope ultimately lead to evidence that will prove the men’s innocence. We are grateful for your help – any contribution no matter how large or smallis welcome and much appreciated.
#PoliceCorruption #Entrapment #MiscarriageOfJustice #PoliceAnonymity
You can find further information about the case at: https://birminghamfour.co.uk/
Podcast Link: https://www.the-detective.co.uk/series-1-the-musketeers/
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