LONDON (Reuters) - Three Britons were cleared on Tuesday of helping to plot the deadly London suicide bombings in July 2005 in the first prosecution over the 7/7 attacks which killed 52 people.
Mohammed Shakil, Sadeer Saleem and Waheed Ali were accused of scouting the city for possible targets with two of the four young British Muslims who detonated homemade devices in coordinated attacks on three underground trains and a bus.
Prosecutors said the three men were friends of the bombers, Mohammed Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer, Jermaine Lindsay and Hasib Hussain, attending the same Mosque and gym in the tightly knit town of Beeston, Yorkshire.
Although they were not directly involved in making the bombs or carrying out the attacks, detectives believed the men had helped plan the attacks.
A jury last year failed to reach a verdict against the men, and on Tuesday, Ali, 25, Shakil, 32, and Saleem, 28, were found not guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions at a retrial at Kingston Crown Court, the Press Association reported.
But Ali and Shakil were convicted of a second charge of conspiracy to attend a place used for terrorist training. Prosecutors said they were planning to go to a camp in Pakistan when police arrested them in March 2007.
“Thankfully a jury of ordinary people have unanimously been able to see this case for what it was -- guilty by association,” Saleem said in a statement read by his lawyer outside court.
“In my view, the police wanted somebody, anybody, to pay for the murder of 52 people.”
Detectives found that about seven months before the bombings, Shakil, Saleem and Ali spent two days in London with Hussain and Lindsay, visiting tourist attractions such as the London Eye, the Natural History Museum and the London Aquarium, and locations similar to ones attacked on July 7.
But the defendants argued their trip was to allow Ali to visit his sister and take in some tourist attractions.
The court also heard how in November 2004, Khan, the ringleader of the 7/7 plot, recorded a farewell video for his baby daughter before heading to Afghanistan where he introduced two of the bombers and Ali as his daughter’s “uncles.”
Police have always maintained that the 7/7 bombers had assistance from other people with links to al Qaeda as they would not have had the technical expertise to construct the hydrogen peroxide-based bombs themselves.
“While those directly responsible for the bombings died in the attacks, we remain convinced that others must have been involved in the planning,” said John McDowall, head of London’s Counter Terrorism Command.
Families and survivors of the bombings repeated their call for a public inquiry, saying the case raised new issues.
“The trial ... raises again the awful question of whether the bombings could have been prevented,” said Robert Webb, whose sister was killed in the attacks.
Editing by Steve Addison