A new book on the supposed ricin plot should be recommended reading for anti-terror police and the media as to how not to investigate or report on terrorism.
Five men, all Algerians were rounded up by anti-terror police in connection with an alleged plot to produce the deadly poison ricin between September 2002 and January 2003. The hysteria surrounding the threat of terrorism in the UK led to lurid headlines condemning the men even before they had been tried in a court of law. The book, Ricin! The Inside Story of the Terror Plot That Never Was, written by Lawrence Archer and Fiona Bawdon, is a testament to the jury system in the UK. Archer was jury foreman through the trial that lasted seven months, from September 2004 to April 2005. He and his fellow jurors saw through the supposed evidence collected by the police and found four of the five not guilty of the charges they faced.
You may ask how much ricin was found in the possession of the Algerian men accused of producing it and held on remand in prison as alleged terrorists for over two years. The answer is none – yet this did not stop the police, CPS and the British government pursuing them in what appeared to be a politically motivated prosecution to justify its draconian anti-terror laws. The supposed ricin plot was also used as justification for the war on Iraq by then US Secretary of State Colin Powell to the UN Security Council.
Archer traces the history of the case, examining the backgrounds of the men, what led them all to the UK, their initial arrests, the trial and then what happened to them afterwards. Despite being found not guilty, two of the men were later arrested and detained for deportation as threats to national security and then subjected to virtual house arrest after being placed under control orders. Two of the four still face an uncertain future.
It should also be noted that the only person convicted of making ricin in the UK is a white man. In May 2010, Ian Davison was sentenced to ten years for producing a chemical weapon, preparing for acts of terrorism and having terror handbooks. Ten fatal doses of ricin were found in his home. He and his son, Nicky, were founders of the neo-Nazi Aryan Strike Force (ASF) website whose slogan was ‘Whatever it takes’. His son Nicky was sentenced to two years in a young offenders’ institute for possessing material useful for acts of terror. In June 2010, two other members of the ASF, Michael Heaton and Trevor Hannington, were cleared of soliciting murder, but Heaton was convicted of stirring up racial hatred, a charge Hannington had already admitted. Heaton was sentenced to thirty months and Hannington to two years imprisonment.
The conviction of these white men is significant when you consider that in recent years, the people targeted under anti-terror laws have overwhelmingly been Muslim men. Ricin!, shows that rather than mastermind terrorists or al-Qaida agents, the Algerian men caught up in the ricin case were, on the whole, naïve young men involved in low-level criminality in order to survive in the UK.
This is a brave book, lived and written by a man willing to go the extra mile to defend those innocent men caught up with draconian anti-terror laws which now see beards under the bed everywhere.
Buy a copy of the book here