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Student jailed over bomb manual

Published 01/04/2015

Erol Incedal was cleared of targeting Tony Blair and his wife Cherie as part of a terrorist plot (Elizabeth Cook/PA)
Erol Incedal was cleared of targeting Tony Blair and his wife Cherie as part of a terrorist plot (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

A British law student cleared of plotting an attack following the UK's first secret terror trial has been jailed for three-and-a-half years for possessing a bomb-making manual.

Erol Incedal, 27, broke down in tears last week as he was found not guilty after a retrial of plotting with a terrorist in Syria to either target individuals such as former prime minister Tony Blair 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. His friend Mounir Rarmoul-Bouhadjar, also 27 and from London, admitted having an identical document.

Incedal, who has been in custody since he was stopped by police, was jailed for 42 months at the Old Bailey while Rarmoul-Bouhadjar was jailed for three years by trial judge Mr Justice Nicol.

The judge said there were viable instructions for home-made bombs on the memory card.

He said: "The potential for such bombs to cause death, injury and destruction is obvious.

"The fear, panic and terror which explosions also bring are often a deliberate part of the terrorist's ambition."

Mr Justice Nicol told the pair that even though they were not terrorists, Parliament had made possessing such documents an offence because of the danger of them being in circulation.

As Incedal had admitted in his trial to discussing a plan to buy and sell class A drugs and to acquire a gun with his friend, their mitigation of previous good character was "somewhat blunted", the judge said.

Both defendants have been in custody since their arrest 17 months ago, so they could be eligible for parole within months.

The case became a legal first after an attempt by the Crown to hold the entire trial in secret was scuppered by a media challenge at the High Court.

Today, Mr Justice Nicol refused a bid by the media to be allowed to report a "Part 2" section of the trial which was held behind closed doors but with 10 accredited journalists allowed to take notes.

While a small section of the trial was held in public, the lion's share of the evidence, including most of Incedal's defence, was completely in secret.

Outlining the case against the pair today, prosecutor Richard Whittam QC told the court how the defendants travelled to the Turkey-Syria border in early 2013 in support of opposition to the Syrian regime.

The prosecution case was they crossed the border into the war-torn country and Incedal accepted they stayed in a house or compound on the border where they mixed with other Islamists, he said.

While it had been their intention to travel into Syria for humanitarian reasons, while at the house, they were shown how to strip and reassemble Kalashnikov rifles and how to make improvised explosive devices, Mr Whittam said.

London-born Rarmoul-Bouhadjar viewed documents about IEDs on a computer and Incedal knew about it, he said.

During the trial, Incedal said they decided to go back to London because the conditions were "harsh" and Rarmoul-Bouhadjar wanted to return to the UK and to his job.

Incedal said they had carried out some humanitarian work but accepted that photographs of them dressed as if they were doing it were "a sham", Mr Whittam said.

Both defendants were stopped and arrested as they travelled in a Mercedes car on October 13 2013 near Tower Bridge.

Inside the covers of their mobile phones, police found micro SD cards which contained a number of files including the bomb-making document under the file name "smoking water melon grape and mint" which had been created the month before.

On the day of his arrest, Incedal had searched on his phone for items relating to Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, the court heard.

Examination of the bomb-making document found that it contained instructions to make "viable" explosive devices, Mr Whittam said.

Following their arrest, Incedal's home in Unity Court, south-east London, was searched.

Officers found A4 sheets of paper with notes on four possible routes of travel from London to Pakistan and the Yemen.

There was also a nine-point list for travel including "cover stories" and a timescale coinciding with Ramadan.

Mr Whittam said the "utility" of the bomb-making document was well known to both men after their stay on the border of Syria.

Defending Incedal, Joel Bennathan QC said his client's evidence was that he had asked his friend to get him a copy of the document he had seen on a laptop at the house on the Turkey-Syria border and that was not disputed by his co-defendant.

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