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October 23, 2011

London: The Hallett Inquest

Karin Brothers

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On Thursday, July 7th, 2005, the city of London, England was closed down after explosions on three subway cars and a bus. The blasts killed 56 people and injured hundreds; the country was traumatized.

Despite previous public resistance to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s attempts at anti-terror legislation which would eliminate traditional civil liberties, the public succumbed to fear, and anti- terror laws were enacted that eliminated long-standing rules of judicial due process and many civil liberties-- particularly for Muslims. The security services multiplied in manpower, offices, and budget.

There were various indications of foreknowledge, including Scotland Yard’s warning to the Israeli embassy. In a July 7 Jerusalem Post article, “Ex-Mossad chief calls for World War after London attack” Efraim Halevi, former head of the Mossad, claimed the “simultaneous bombings” came off “almost” as planned.

When an “Al Quaeda” admission of responsibility was issued, Prime Minister Tony Blair declared that there would be no money wasted on any investigation because it was clear that an “evil ideology” of Islam was behind it.  An inquiry continued to be disallowed, however, even after the “al Quaeda” admission was found to have originated from Texas. (Pallister, 2005)  Five days after the bombing, several “suicide bombers” were named as responsible: young Muslim men who were respected British citizens.

But questions continued to arise. It became apparent that the four accused had not planned to die and that security services knew much more than they had claimed. Details about this have mainly come out through subsequent hearings; the most recent being the 2010 Hallett Inquest, to investigate what the security services knew about the events the year previous to July 7th, 2005. That public inquest, held despite warnings from Britain’s security services that questioning them would “encourage terrorists,” was held from October to December 2010, with the verdict presented in May 2011.

Since the hearings were held five years after the bombings, it was hoped that they would answer many questions that had not been resolved. Instead, investigators found that the testimony raised more questions than ever.

What is known:

To understand the implications of the testimony at the Hallett Inquest, it’s necessary to review the initial accounts of how the accused were identified and what discoveries have been made since then. The following information was presented by mainstream newspapers on the day shown unless otherwise noted, with information gathered later in brackets and italics:

Ÿ  Thursday, July 7th:

Ÿ  Non-simultaneous explosions at various London Transport subway locations were first reported at 9:20 am.; previous reports had noted a power surge;  [British media reported only on July 9th and 10th that all subway explosions occurred at 8:50 am];

Ÿ  [Metropolitan Police admit, after initial denial, that they shut off mobile phone reception in the London core for an hour after 8:50 am];

Ÿ  Police shoot and kill two or three “suicide bombers” at Canary Wharf at about 10:30 am; This was broadcast and reported in various sources including The Globe & Mail (Rook, 2005);

Ÿ  Peter Powers of Visor Consultants appears on British media to report the coincidence that his 1000-person emergency preparedness operation for simultaneous bombings, had been planned to take place at the same times and subway stops as the day’s events;

Ÿ  [Muslims claim that they were being recruited for the roles of the “suicide bombers” for the emergency-preparedness operation];

Ÿ  Friday, July 8th: [The remains of Khan and Tanweer are discovered at Edgware and Aldgate subway sites one to two days after the bombings.] [A newspaper article claims that Scotland Yard counter terrorism unit believed Jermaine Lindsay to be alive];

Ÿ  Monday, July 11: Explosives experts identify London bombs as “sophisticated” and “not homemade” [Traces of the US military explosive C4 and detonators were confirmed later at all four blast sites (McGrory et al, 2005)];

Ÿ  Tuesday, July 12: Detectives start to examine 2500 CCTV tapes which was expected to take “at least” two weeks; Police call a press conference to name Hasib Hussain, Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shezad Tanweer as three of the four “suicide bombers” responsible. They claimed that four Asian men were seen together on [unreleased] CCTVs and by eyewitnesses taking one of two commuter trains from Luton Station to King’s Cross, where they fanned out to martyr themselves; Police claim that they had no prior knowledge of any of the accused;

Ÿ  Wednesday July 13:

      The rapid identification of the accused seems to be confirmed by 1) the discovery of a car at the Luton station parking lot that police claim the suspects rented which had a trunk filled with “homemade explosives” and 2) an address which police claimed was linked to an accused which had a bathtub filled with “homemade explosive”, which they dubbed “the bomb factory.”

Ÿ  Police don’t know whether all of the suspects died on July 7 (Bennetto, Herbert, 2005);

Ÿ  Police claim the body of the fourth “suicide bomber” is so badly shredded at the Piccadilly blast that DNA is required for his identification.

Ÿ  [The wife of Jermaine Lindsay reports him missing; police search his home.]

Ÿ  Thursday, July 14th: Police claim that DNA tests indicate Jermaine Lindsay as the “fourth bomber” ; his passport and papers are discovered “near him” at that blast site;

Ÿ  August 24, 2005: Metropolitan Police claim that they are in possession of the bodies of all “suicide bombers” which they are keeping to reassemble for analysis -- six weeks after 7/7!

Ÿ  July 11, 2006: British Home Secretary John Reid admits that the commuter trains of July 7, 2005 -- that the government claimed it had CCTV and witness proof that the accused had taken -- had been cancelled, admitting that the government had made false claims.  If the men had tried to take those trains, they could not have been in London in time to be on the exploding cars; there have been no CCTV photos proving that Khan, Tanweer or Lindsay were in London on July 7th.

I. What actually happened on July 7th? 

It now appears that the pattern of injured and dead on the subway cars does not match the claims of where the bombs were supposedly detonated.  The damaged subway cars were disposed of without the damage being properly documented, leaving questions about how many cars were involved (initial reports of six or seven explosions were later changed to four), what direction they were travelling in, and where the explosions originated in the cars. 

Observed injuries tended to indicate the legs and feet, which corresponds to witness accounts of damage coming from under the cars’ floors but is not consistent with backpack bombs in packed trains.  There are even questions about what caused the explosions, since many witnesses insist that that there actually was an electrical power surge, possibly before other explosions. 

No autopsies were performed on those “unlawfully killed”, which might have shed light on the causes of their deaths.  There are also questions about when the bombs went off, as the subway’s system indicated one discrepancy of several minutes.

Despite the London bus company’s claim that the CCTV tapes from the No. 30 bus were given to the police, Scotland Yard claimed that the (four) CCTV cameras on the bus were “not working”. The number of dead was reported as 2, 13 or 14.

II. How did police identify those accused of the Aldgate and Edgware Road sites?

A. The identification of Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shezad Tanweer:

According to the Hallett testimony, the unidentifiable remains of Khan and Tanweer were only discovered after a day or two in the respective subway cars.  The testimony claimed that their remains had been reduced to chunks of flesh - with no hands, heads or even teeth: in Tanweer’s case, only a 1.8 Kg of backbone. (In contrast, the other bodies, including nearby survivors, were easily identifiable.) Police turned over their remains to labs already identified (J7 blogspots); there was no explanation about how police had actually come to identify the remains of Khan or Tanweer.

This testimony contradicts the initial police story which implied that the only identification problem requiring DNA was Jermaine Lindsay, who was identified two days after the others, on July 14th. 

B. The identification of the alleged bus bomber Hasib Hussain:

Hallett testimony revolved around the CCTV image and eyewitness accounts on July 7th. Despite Hussain’s reported wandering around for almost an hour after the subway explosions, only one CCTV photo was released, after he reportedly bought a battery. (Which implied that he assumed he would have an opportunity to use it!) His repeated attempts to call the other accused after 9 am show that he thought they were alive; the police’s unexplained shut down of London’s cell phone system for the hour after the subway explosions meant he could not reach them or have known about the explosions.

Bus No. 30 eyewitness accounts were contradictory in every respect. While there seems to be no doubt about Hussain’s death on the No. 30 bus, there was no evidence that he caused the explosion.

C. The identification of Germaine/Jermaine Lindsay:

Investigators were surprised that police did not testify at the Hallett inquest about their identification of Lindsay, as they had on Khan and Tanweer. The case surrounding Germaine Lindsay is particularly strange.  Police removed Lindsay’s car from the Luton parking lot hours after the July 7 explosions; its registration was on their database because of a previous infraction. On July 12th, police identified a King’s Cross photo of Lindsay (a black Jamaican) as Tanweer (of Pakistani descent)! On July 13th a police spokesman admitted that police did not know if all of the suspects died on July 7th.

The police claimed that they needed time to identify the shredded remains of the fourth “suicide bomber” through DNA analysis, but investigators noticed that Lindsay was not identified until after his wife called to report him missing on July 13th.  It was only after the search of Lindsay’s home that police claimed they found his passport at the blast site and publicly identified him on July 14th.

Given the police claim that they had Khan and Tanweer’s bodies by July 9th, the July 13th police admission that they were not in possession of at least some suspects’ bodies meant that they did not have Lindsay’s. Newspaper articles from The Guardian (Jones, 2005) and (The Bucks Herald, 2005) bear this out; the July 7th removal of Lindsay’s car from the Luton parking lot, the police refusal to identify Lindsay as a “suicide bomber” until after he was reported missing, and the absence of testimony explaining how his body was identified indicate Lindsay survived the July 7th explosions.

III. Conclusions: The implications of the evidence to date:

The Muslims who were recruited to be “suicide bombers” by the July 7th emergency-preparedness operation were reportedly offered generous fees for that role.  The accused needed money: Lindsay’s and Khan’s wives were pregnant; Hussain was attending university and needed a car; Tanweer had just graduated but had just paid a large car repair bill. They had return tickets home from London that day, they had paid their day’s parking fees and their families expected them home.

The accused could not have been in London when the blasts occurred because the commuter trains they were meant to have taken were either cancelled or delayed.  They would not have found out about the subway explosions because of the London Transport reports of a “power surge” as well as the police shut down of London’s cell phone system for the following hour. 

As the scripted “suicide bombers”, they had to be killed before they learned about the explosions on their trains and reached any media.  The “operational cell phones” they were given for this event would have shown police their location as they went to Canary Wharf, where police marksmen killed them as “suicide bombers.” Canary Wharf is a media center and the reports of their deaths were reported internationally (including in Toronto’s Globe and Mail) because of the media witnesses there.  Lindsay’s familiarity with cell phones may have protected himself from assassination.

Once in possession of Khan and Tanweer’s bodies, police would have needed to make it appear that they had been killed by explosions rather than by bullets. Their remains were consistent with having been destroyed by close contact with explosives, but not consistent with the explosions at the subway blast sites, where all of the bodies were “basically” intact. The (presumed) remains of Khan and Tanweer were then placed at the subway sites afterwards.  Police seemed to be unsure of where to spread their identification papers which supposedly survived the vaporization of their bodies; Khan’s identification papers were found at Edgware, Aldgate and even on the No. 30 bus!

International experts determined that the bombs used in all of the July 7 bombings were sophisticated and specifically not homemade; traces of an unusual variant of the US military explosive C4 with detonators was found at all sites. The fact that the accused had no apparent access to C4 along with the placement of the bombs under the subway cars, showed that these were not “suicide bombings”. 

The police discovery and “identification” of “explosives” in a rented car five days after July 7 and in an apartment with no obvious connection to the accused were treated by the police as if it proved both that they had identified the accused correctly and that the July 7th bombs were homemade. 

The media played a largely obedient role and went along with the new story of “homemade explosives”, even when the identification of this material was later retracted by Scotland Yard (Ahmed, 2006, 31, 45).  The accused, among the least likely to have committed any acts of terrorism, have been convicted by the media of crimes they would certainly have been exonerated of had they lived to defend themselves. The fact that they were such unlikely terrorists has been used by the British government as an excuse to expand their surveillance of the Muslim community.

This new paradigm of the “home grown terrorists” (with the additional help of two intelligence agents connected to the London bombings) have been used successfully to obtain convictions of Muslims in Britain, the US and Canada.  These cases have created dangerous legal precedents and have eroded civil liberties and the justice systems in their respective countries.

In May 2011 the Hallett Inquest determined that 52 of the 56 London deaths had been “unlawful”: the fault only of the “bombers” rather than of the hours-long medical response time or a lack of diligence of the security services.  Hallett refused the families of the accused the further investigation they had requested into how their loved ones might have come to have been involved. 

On August 2 a legal challenge to force the British government to hold a public inquiry into the July 7 attacks was abandoned “acknowledging that the proceedings would be likely to be unsuccessful.”

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