Wood Green ricin plot

Wood Green ricin plot

The Wood Green ricin plot refers to a 2002 bioterrorism plot on the London Underground railway system, in which ricin poison would have been manufactured and used for an attack. It was believed the attack had connections with Al-Qaeda. Police arrested seven suspects on 5 January 2003.cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/2636099.stm|date=7 January 2003|title=Terror police find deadly poison|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-18] cite web|url=http://www.info.doh.gov.uk/doh/embroadcast.nsf/vwDiscussionAll/2344372825A05AFC80256CA7005727CE?OpenDocument|date=7 January2003|author=Dr Pat Troop - Deputy Chief Medical Officer|title=Concern over ricin poison in the environment|publisher=Department of Health (CEM/CMO/2003/1)|accessdate=2006-10-21]

Within two days, the Biological Weapon Identification Group, at the Porton Down Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, were sure that there was no trace of ricin on any of the articles that were found. This fact was initially misreported to other government departments as well as to the public, who only became aware of this in 2005.cite web|url=http://www.globalsecurity.org/org/nsn/nsn-050411.htm|title=UK Terror Trial Finds No Terror: Not guilty of conspiracy to poison London with ricin|date=11 April 2005|first=George|last=Smith|accessdate=2006-10-17|publisher=Globalsecurity.org ] Reporting restrictions were in place before the public's perceptions could be corrected.cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4433499.stm|date=13 April 2005|title=Questions over ricin conspiracy|first=Chris|last=Summers|accessdate=2006-10-17] cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4441903.stm|date=13 April 2005|title=Terror trial had blanket news ban|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-18]

The only subsequent conviction was of Kamel Bourgass, sentenced to 17 years for conspiring "together with other persons unknown to commit public nuisance by the use of poisons and/or explosives to cause disruption, fear or injury" on the basis of five pages of his hand-written notes on how to make ricin, cyanide and botulinum. [cite news|url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/alqaida/story/0,,1585130,00.html|date=14 April 2005|first=Duncan|last=Campbell|publisher=The Guardian|title=The ricin ring that never was|accessdate=2006-10-18] He was already sentenced to life in prison for the murder of DC Stephen Oake, whom he stabbed to death during his arrest in Manchester. Bourgass also stabbed three other police officers at the same time; they all survived. All other suspects were either released without charge, acquitted, or had their trials abandoned.

Public reaction

Physicians throughout the United Kingdom were warned to watch for signs that patients had been poisoned by ricin, [cite web|url=http://www.info.doh.gov.uk/doh/embroadcast.nsf/0/dcf1983af19b8fc880256ca9004f720e?OpenDocument| date=9 January2003|author=Dr Pat Troop - Deputy Chief Medical Officer|title=Interim guidelines for health professionals on the response to suspected ricin exposure|publisher=Department of Health (CEM/CMO/2003/2)|accessdate=2006-10-18] and the public health director for London urged the public not to be alarmed following some media reports. Britain's largest circulation newspaper, "The Sun", reported the discovery of a "factory of death", [cite news|url=http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,74968,00.html|title=Seventh Man Arrested in London Ricin Case|date=8 January 2003|author=Associated Press|publisher=foxnews|accessdate=2006-10-18] and other newspapers warned on their front pages "250,000 of us could have died", "Poison gang on the loose" and "Killer with no antidote". [cite news|url=http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,75028,00.html|title=More Plotters With Ricin May Be on the Loose, London Police Say|date=8 January 2003|author=Associated Press|publisher=Foxnews|accessdate=2006-10-18] [cite news|url=http://archive.theargus.co.uk/2003/1/9/142910.html|title=The sober truth about ricin|date=9 January 2003|publisher=The Argus|accessdate=2006-10-20]

The fact that no ricin had been found was known to some government departments very early on, but this information not revealed to the public until after Bourgass's trial two years later, although in the interim it was cited as evidence for further Terrorism Laws, as well as featuring in U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's 5th February 2003 speech to the UN to build the case for the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, as part of the alleged Abu Musab al-Zarqawi global terrorist network. As late as February 2006, Prime Minister Gordon Brown described it as a significant terrorism plot spanning 26 countries. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/4708816.stm|date=13 February 2006|title=Full text of Gordon Brown's speech to the Royal United Services Institute in London|author=Gordon Brown|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-18]

Timeline of arrests and announcements

* 5 January 2003 - police raid a flat in Wood Green, North London and arrest six men on suspicion of manufacturing ricin intended for use in a terrorist poison attack on the London Underground.cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/2636099.stm|date=7 January 2003|title=Terror police find deadly poison|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-18]

* 7 January - seventh man arrested. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/2640987.stm|date=10 January 2003|title=Police question seven over ricin find|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-18]

* 12 January - five men and a woman arrested in the Bournemouth area for terrorism involving ricin, [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/2652773.stm|date=14 January 2003|title=Six questioned in ricin investigation|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-18] but released without charge several days later. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/2657657.stm|date=14 January 2003|title=Five released after terror raids|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-18]

* 14 January - three men arrested in Crumpsall, Manchester in a raid to detain a man who had been certified under Part 4 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. [cite web|url=http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2003-01-16a.64.3|date=16 January 2003|publisher=Hansard|work=House of Lords|title=Death of Detective Constable Stephen Oake: Inquiry|author=Lord Filkin] Detective Constable Stephen Oake dies after being stabbed with a kitchen knife by Kamel Bourgass who was also there. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4440953.stm|date=13 April 2005|title=Mystery still surrounds killer|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-18]

* 20 January - police raid and close the Finsbury Park mosque for several days as part of the investigation. Seven men arrested. Another man arrested in London a day later. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/2689991.stm|date=24 January 2003|title=Mosque closed to worshippers|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-18]

* 5 February - Colin Powell, the U.S. Secretary of State, refers to those arrested as the "UK Poison Cell" of a global terrorist network in making the case for military intervention in Iraq to the UN Security Council. [cite web|url=http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/powell/photos/2003/17356.htm|date=5 February 2003|author=Colin Powell|title=Al-Zarqawi's Iraq-Linked Terrorist Network|publisher=US Department of State|accessdate=2006-10-18] A week later he testifies to the Committee on International Relations of the United States House of Representatives that this ricin originated in Iraq, [cite web|url=http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/intlrel/hfa84944.000/hfa84944_0f.htm|date=14 February 2006|author=Colin Powell|publisher=House of Representatives|title=The President's international affairs budget request for fiscal year 2004; hearing before the Committee on International Relations; 108th Congress|accessdate=2006-10-31] though this is disputed immediately. [cite news|url=http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/02/12/sprj.irq.powell.ricin/|date=12 February 2006|title=Europe skeptical of Iraq-ricin link|publisher=CNN|accessdate=2006-10-31]

* 11 March - the Home Secretary issues control orders against ten terrorist suspects just released from detention connecting them to the ricin plot, even though it was alleged to have occurred while they were in custody. Letters of apology were sent two weeks later explaining that it was a "clerical error", but that they were still terrorist suspects. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4450863.stm|date=16 April 2005|title=Apology over control orders error|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-18]

* 21 March - two vials containing traces of ricin are found in a train station in Paris. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2870567.stm|date=21 March 2003|title=Ricin found in Paris|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-18] These were said to be connected to an attack on the Russian embassy, [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2872359.stm|date=21 March 2003|title=Ricin 'linked to militants'|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-18] until further tests proved that they were jars of wheat germ. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2940805.stm|date=11 April 2003|title=Paris 'ricin' find is harmless|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-18]

* 16 September - several of the men are re-arrested to face deportation on terrorist charges based on information from a prisoner in Algeria. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4251442.stm|date=16 September 2005|title=Algerian detainees 'face torture'|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-18] One of them, who was sentenced to death in Algeria 1997 in his absence, continues to fight his deportation, [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/5012880.stm|date=24 May 2006|title=Questions over terror informant|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-18] Two of the jurors who found him innocent at his trial express their sense of anger and betrayal at his subsequent treatment. [cite news|url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1875503,00.html|date=19 September 2006|title=Our verdict was ignored|author=two anonymous jurors|publisher=The Guardian|accessdate=2006-10-18]


In 30 June 2004, Kamel Bourgass was convicted for the murder of DC Stephen Oake during his arrest and was jailed for life.

The trials of five defendants, including Bourgass, for conspiracy to commit murder and as part of a ricin plot, began in September and lasted through to 8 April 2005. Bourgass alone was convicted and sentenced to 17 years for conspiring to cause a public nuisance by "plotting to spread ricin and other poisons on the UK's streets". cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4433709.stm|date=13 April 2005|title=Killer jailed over poison plot|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-18] Mouloud Sihali and David Khalef are convicted of possessing false passports.cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4433459.stm|date=13 April 2005|title=The ricin case timeline|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-18]

On 12 April 2005 the jury was dismissed after failing to reach a verdict on the charge of conspiring to commit murder, and a second trial of four further defendants was abandoned before it started.

There had been a blanket ban on the media reporting on anything involving the Bourgass case for two whole years until the trial had ended.In October 2005, Eliza Manningham-Buller, the Director-General of MI5, revealed that the evidence which uncovered the so-called ricin plot came from Mohamed Meguerba, a man who jumped bail and fled to Algeria where he was detained and probably subjected to torture. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/4363254.stm|date=21 October 2005|title=MI5's 'torture' evidence revealed|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-18]


On 13 April 2005, Jon Silverman, Legal affairs analyst for the BBC wrote:

[I] s this case... notable for the way in which criminal investigations are shamelessly exploited for political purposes by governments in the UK and United States, whether to justify the invasion of Iraq or the introduction of new legislation to restrict civil liberties?

A key unexplained issue is why the Porton Down laboratory, which analysed the material and equipment seized from a flat in Wood Green, said that a residue of ricin had been found when it had not. [cite news|date=13 April 2005|title=Comment: Questions unanswered|first=Jon|last=Silverman| url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4442479.stm|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-18]

On April 11, 2005, George Smith, of GlobalSecurity.Org summed up:

It is no longer a surprise when one finds that many claims from the alleged best of American government intelligence in the war on terror are bogus. It is still dismaying, though, to see intelligence derived from materials submitted in the alleged trial of the "UK poison cell" that is so patently rotten. Who was informing Colin Powell on the nonsense before his date with the UN Security Council?

There was no UK poison cell linked to al Qaida or Muhamad al Zarqawi. There was no ricin with which to poison London, only notes and 22 castor seeds. There was no one who even knew how to purify ricin.

On August 17, 2006, Craig Murray summed up on CounterPunch:

I spoke at the annual Stop the War conference a couple of months ago [and] referred to the famous ricin plot... It was alleged that a flat in North London inhabited by Muslims was a "Ricin" factory, manufacturing the deadly toxin which could kill "hundreds of thousands of people". Police tipped off the authorities that traces of ricin had been discovered. In the end, all those accused were found not guilty by the court. The "traces of ricin" were revealed to be the atmospheric norm.

The "intelligence" on that plot had been extracted under torture in Algeria. Another police tip-off to the media was that the intelligence said that the ricin had been stored in plastic jars, and they had indeed found plastic jars containing a suspicious substance. It turned out the containers in question were two Brylcreem tubs. What was in them? In the first, paper clips. In the second, Brylcreem. [cite web|url=http://www.counterpunch.org/murray08182006.html|date=17 August 2006|title=The Hair Gel Terror Hype - Hitting a Nerve|first=Craig|last=Murray|publisher=Counterpunch|accessdate=2006-10-18]

The Wood Green conspiracy allegations were also depicted critically in the 2007 documentary, "Taking Liberties".

External links

* [http://video.google.co.uk/videoplay?docid=6046185336532561824 Dispatches: Spinning Terror] The 'ricin plot'
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4433649.stm List of suspects involved] from the BBC.
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4433459.stm Ricin case timeline] from the BBC.
* [http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/04/14/wood_green_ricin_case/ Critical view] from The Register
* [http://www.globalsecurity.org/org/nsn/nsn-050411.htm GlobalSecurity.org report] assesses the entire case and all the allegations.

See also

* List of terrorist incidents in the United Kingdom
* Casey Cutler


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