Student cleared of terror plot
A British law student has been cleared of targeting Tony Blair and his wife Cherie as part of a terrorist plot, following the UK's first secret terror case.
Erol Incedal, 27, broke down in tears as he was found not guilty after a retrial at the Old Bailey of plotting with a terrorist in Syria to either attack individuals or carry out a "Mumbai style" outrage using a Kalashnikov.
Last year, he was convicted of possessing a bomb-making manual on a memory card at the time he was arrested in October 2013.
He will be sentenced on Wednesday next week alongside his friend Rarmoul-Bouhadjar, also 27, and from London, who admitted having an identical document.
The controversial decision to hold most of the case behind closed doors is likely to come under the spotlight since the jury decided that the sum total of evidence they had heard did not prove the case against Incedal beyond reasonable doubt.
The Crown had tried to hold the entire trial in secret in the interests of national security. But following a legal challenge by the media at the High Court, the case was divided into three parts - public, private with 10 accredited journalists present but banned from reporting, and completely secret.
In the first trial last year, the "Part 3" top secret part of the trial amounted to 40 hours of the three-and-a-half week hearing compared with eight hours in "part 2" with journalists present and 12 hours in public. The retrial followed a similar pattern.
During the secret parts of the trial, some witnesses were allowed to give evidence anonymously from behind screens although the reason for that was not made clear.
Newspapers are expected to apply to Mr Justice Nicol to lift reporting restrictions on the "Part 2" evidence following today's verdict.
During the public sessions, the court heard that Incedal had travelled to Syria, where he met a terrorist he knew as Ahmed who told him to do "some shit" when he went back to the UK.
After Incedal returned, the pair discussed by email doing terrorist acts during the summer of 2013, jurors were told.
Prosecutor Richard Whittam QC told the jury: "These acts they corresponded about were about the murder of a limited number of individuals; the murder of an individual of significance such as Tony Blair; and a wider ranging and indiscriminate attack using Kalashnikovs such as the one in Mumbai, where you know automatic rifles were used and a great deal of people killed and wounded.
"These plans about which they corresponded are not fanciful plans dreamt up by the prosecution - they are the real possibilities the defendant was engaged in with Ahmed."
The court heard that Incedal accepted they were real plans but had attempted to explain away his role in them.
He had also admitted that his friend Rarmoul-Bouhadjar was given instruction on bomb-making when Ahmed was present.
The prosecution said Incedal's plans were scuppered by police who bugged his Mercedes car after he was stopped on September 30 2013 for driving at 60mph in a 40mph zone without a licence or insurance.
In the car, they uncovered a slip of paper which had the address of Mr Blair and his QC wife on it.
Immediately following his first arrest, the Turkish-born defendant was heard on tape to complain about "pigs" to his wife and talk about going to a "Plan B".
He said: "I made a big mistake. Some very important stuff was in the car. If they find it, I would be f*****".
Over the next few days, the listening device also picked up Incedal singing along and commenting on violent Jihadist videos as well as talking about buying a gun and his time in war-torn Syria.
In a discussion with Rarmoul-Bouhadjar, he said that he preferred to be called a "terrorist" than an "extremist", saying: "That's a great word, Mounir. There's never been a greater word than that, that's been used to describe us."
Armed police swooped on October 13 2013 and stopped Incedal and Rarmoul-Bouhadjar driving near Tower Bridge in the City of London.
In a search of Incedal's family home in Unity Court, south east London, officers found notes on a "Plan A" with a check list of one-month surveillance, rent flat nearby, uniform, training - and two tennis racquets.
During the search of Incedal's secret address in Sussex Gardens, near Paddington, police recovered the laptop which had been in the car during the first police stop.
On it, they found Skype messages and emails. In one, there was a reference to "straps", slang for guns, and "K 1122aaa shhh" and "mo88m ssbayy style" taken to refer to "the use of Kalashnikov for an attack like they used in Mumbai in 2008", the court heard.
An examination of his iPhone also uncovered a picture of Fieldgate Street synagogue in East London which had been taken on August 31 2013.
In his defence, Incedal, a married father-of-two, denied that he had been planning a terror attack with others.
He explained that he had been living off student loans and was struggling to provide for his family at the time so had been considering schemes to make money, including a failed bid to open a Halal butcher's shop.
The defendant said Plan A was a sketch of ideas for an armed robbery on a jewellers which he had been thinking about proposing to three sons of the radical cleric Abu Hamza. Tennis racquet was a code word for guns, the court heard
And on the bugged chatter about guns, Incedal told jurors it was yet another plan he never put into practice about buying heroin and a gun.
He also explained the note with the Blairs' address on it had been taken from an item on the BBC news about their son's wedding venue which was in the public domain.
The court heard that Incedal was born in Turkey and had a troubled upbringing after moving to Britain as a baby following the death of his father.
He became interested in Islam at the age of 12 and joined a Muslim movement called Tablighi Jamaat, travelling with them to Greece, New York and Bangladesh.
Incedal said he believed resistance to foreign intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan was "justified" and supported rebels against the Assad regime in Syria.
But he said terrorism in the UK was "illegal, immoral and contrary to Islam" and could lead to Muslims being harmed.