The Guardian & CBS Evening News – 2011-02-17 00:50:35
London 7/7 Bombing:
Islamist Who Trained Was US Informant
Shiv Malik / The Guardian & Global Research
LONDON (February 13, 2011) — An American jihadist who set up the terrorist training camp where the leader of the 2005 London suicide bombers learned how to manufacture explosives, has been quietly released after serving only four and a half years of a possible 70-year sentence, a Guardian investigation has learned.
The unreported sentencing of Mohammed Junaid Babar to “time served” because of what a New York judge described as “exceptional co-operation” that began even before his arrest has raised questions over whether Babar was a US informer at the time he was helping to train the ringleader of the 7 July tube and bus bombings.
Lawyers representing the families of victims and survivors of the attacks have compared the lenient treatment of Babar to the controversial release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.
Babar was imprisoned in 2004 — although final sentencing was deferred — after pleading guilty in a New York court to five counts of terrorism. He set up the training camp in Pakistan where Mohammad Sidique Khan and several other British terrorists learned about bomb-making and how to use combat weapons.
Babar admitted to being a dangerous terrorist who consorted with some of the highest-ranking members of al-Qaida, providing senior members with money and equipment, running weapons, and planning two attempts to assassinate the former president of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf.
But in a deal with prosecutors for the US attorney’s office, Babar agreed to plead guilty and become a government supergrass in return for a drastically reduced sentence.
The Guardian has obtained a court document which shows that on 10 December last year — six years after his initial arrest and subsequent guilty plea — he was sentenced to “time served” and charged $500 (Â£310) by the court in a “special assessment” fee. The document also reveals that Babar had by then spent just over four years in some form of prison and more than two years free on bail.
Graham Foulkes, a magistrate whose 22-year-old son David was killed by Khan at Edgware Road underground station in 2005, said: “People get four and a half years for burglary. They can get more for some road traffic offences. So for an international terrorist who’s directly linked to the death of my son and dozens and dozens of people to get that sentence is just outrageous.”
Fifty-two people were killed and 784 injured on 7 July 2005 when four suicide bombers detonated rucksacks filled with explosives and nails on London’s transport system in the morning rush hour.
The lawyer representing the families of the dead and survivors, Clifford Tibber of the law firm Anthony Gold, said they would be devastated to learn that Babar had served only a small proportion of his possible sentence.
“Babar admitted setting up and funding training camps attended by the 7/7 bombers,” Tibber said. “When the British government released Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber who received a life sentence, on compassionate grounds after eight years the Americans were furious. Imagine how the bereaved and the survivors will feel about [Babar’s] paltry sentence.”
A remark from the sentencing judge that Babar “began co-operating even before his arrest”, has raised the possibility, supported by other circumstantial evidence obtained by the Guardian, that he may have been an informant for the US government before his detention by the FBI in April 2004.
Babar facilitated the London bombers’ knowledge of bomb-making when he invited around a dozen British jihadists to attend a camp that he had helped set up in north-west Pakistan in the summer of 2003.
In a debriefing with US law enforcement agents in 2004, Babar told US prosecutors about Khan, whom he knew as “Ibrahim.” British terrorism investigators showed Babar an unclear surveillance photo of Khan in August 2004, but Babar failed to identify him.
He has said that when he saw pictures of Khan in newspapers after the bombings he alerted the US authorities straight away: “I told them [the American authorities] that was the person that was Ibrahim. I had mentioned Ibrahim before July 2005.”
After his guilty plea in 2004, Babar spent a good proportion of his four and a half years outside the regular prison system. He flew to testify in trials in the UK and in Canada and met law enforcement officers from around the world.
In 2008 he was granted bail awaiting final sentencing, after being warned by a judge that his conviction on five terrorism offences carried a maximum 70-year term.
Although a probation report dated 9 July 2010 recommended that Babar remain in jail for another 30 years, the US attorney’s office submitted their own report to the New York court, known as a 5K1, which praised Babar’s work.
One extract read out in court stated: “Over the last six and a half years the level of assistance provided by Babar to both the United States government and foreign governments has been more than substantial. It has been extraordinary.”
Speaking in court about Babar’s role in helping to jail British, Canadian and American terrorists, the assistant US attorney Brendan McGuire described Babar’s co-operation as exceptional, and he recommended that he be given a significantly reduced sentence.
Babar’s defence lawyer, Daniel Ollen, told the court that during the two years his client had been out on bail, he had “paid his debt to society” and had settled into a new life with his wife and daughter.
Ollen said the government’s positive statements on behalf of Babar in court spoke volumes about his “hugely successful” actions, and that in 30 years he had never seen a more positive 5K1 report from the government.
Speaking for the first time about the case, Ollen told the Guardian that in court “the government went to bat for him. They used words like ‘extraordinary’ and ‘unprecedented’. Babar’s co-operation really was spectacular when you get down to it.”
When sentencing Babar, the judge, Victor Marrero, praised his work, describing the sentence of four years and eight months as “reasonable and appropriate”.
“The court takes note that the government has evaluated Mr Babar’s cooperation to be significant, truthful, complete, and liable.,” Marrero said.
“[He] worked with the FBI and foreign governments to assist in investigations of terrorism organisations, including al-Qaida, and of terrorist activities such as the London bomb plot.”
“Taking into account the nature and circumstances of the offence and the history and characteristics of the defendant … the court finds that a sentence of time served is reasonable and appropriate and that such a term is sufficient but not greater than necessary to promote the proper objectives of sentencing,” Marrero said.
A law enforcement agent who arrested Babar and spent more than 500 hours debriefing him said he believed Babar was selfish.
The officer, who wished to be known as agent A, said: “Babar wasn’t a hero. He didn’t look at the American flag and suddenly become all patriotic. When his back was against the wall he did what was right for him … he was selfish.”
Further inquiries uncovered allegations from a top US terrorism lawyer who has reviewed sealed evidence in the case which suggests Babar could have been working for the US authorities before his arrest in April 2004.
Having reviewed the court transcript himself, bereaved father Graham Foulkes said: “There’s a hint from one or two of the sentences [in the transcript] that do strongly suggest [Babar’s] co-operation was going well beyond his official arrest. And it looks as if the Americans may well have known in detail what Babar was up to in Pakistan [at the time] and that is a very, very serious matter.”
When judge Marrero’s office was asked to clarify the remarks, his office declined to comment. The US attorney’s office declined to comment on whether Babar had been working with US agencies before his arrest.
The law enforcement officer involved in Babar’s arrest and debriefing also refused to discuss the allegations.
Freed from prison and no longer in the witness protection scheme, it is not known where Babar is currently living. Visiting Babar’s childhood home in the Jamaica area of Queens, New York, the Guardian was told that Babar’s mother was on holiday in Pakistan. The woman who answered the door and identified herself as Babar’s cousin did not know where Babar was living and refused to comment further.
Bomber Names Ex-CIA Operative in Cuba Bombings
CBS â€¨â€¨Evening News
Salvadoran Man Says He Received
Explosives and $2,000 in Cash from US Agent
To Carry Out 1997 Hotel Bombing
HAVANA (February 10, 2011) — A Salvadoran man jailed in Cuba in connection with a string of 1990s hotel bombings says he told a US prosecutor that he got explosives and money directly from a former CIA operative now on trial in Texas, and that he is willing to testify against him.
Otto Rene Rodriguez told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview Tuesday that he received powerful C-4 explosives and $2,000 in cash directly from Luis Posada Carriles to carry out an Aug. 3, 1997, bombing at Havana’s Melia Cohiba hotel. He was captured trying to enter the country on a subsequent trip with 1.5 kilos (3.3 pounds) of C-4 that Posada had given him, he said.
“Truthfully, looking me in the eyes he cannot say he doesn’t know me,” Rodriguez said. “He does know me. He used me like a tool.”
Posada, 82, is not on trial directly for the bombing campaign â€” but rather for allegedly lying about his involvement to federal authorities during immigration hearings after he sneaked into the US in March 2005.
Cuba’s decision to make Rodriguez and another confessed bomber, Ernesto Cruz Leon, available for the AP interview was part of an effort to show its willingness to help in the US case against the Cuba-born Posada, who is considered Public Enemy No. 1 on his native island.â€¨â€¨
The interviews were conducted one-after-another at a spacious government house in a residential neighborhood of Havana with Cuban officials present.â€¨â€¨Rodriguez and Cruz Leon both said they agreed to be interviewed voluntarily and were not pressured or offered any preferential treatment in return, although Rodriguez said he hoped his continued cooperation might help him get out of jail sooner. Both men had their death sentences commuted to 30-year terms in December.â€¨â€¨ There was no way to independently verify their stories.â€¨â€¨
Prosecutors in El Paso, Texas, could not immediately be reached Tuesday evening, though in the past they have declined to comment on the case, citing government rules. Gloria Berbena, a spokeswoman for the American diplomatic mission in Havana, said she had no immediate comment.â€¨â€¨
Posada admitted responsibility for the bombing campaign in a 1998 interview with then New York Times reporter Ann Louise Bardach but later recanted. She has been subpoenaed to testify at the trial.â€¨â€¨The bombing campaign, which was designed to cripple Cuba’s then-budding tourism industry, killed an Italian national and wounded about a dozen people.â€¨â€¨
Rodriguez, a pudgy 52-year-old with a thin white mustache and tiny white ponytail, said he came to know Posada in San Salvador in 1997, but the latter was using the alias Ignacio Medina at the time. Prosecutors have argued at the trial that Posada used various aliases, among them Medina.â€¨â€¨
Rodriguez said Posada presented himself as a Cuban freedom fighter, and expressed interest in Rodriguez’s services after learning he had military training and was ideologically allied with El Salvador’s right-wing government in a civil war against leftist rebels.â€¨â€¨
“An American prosecutor came here and talked to me, and I promised that if I needed to testify against (the man I knew as) Ignacio Medina, I would,” Rodriguez said. â€¨â€¨Rodriguez’s story could be an important piece of the case against Posada, though he said that up until now he has not been asked to testify. He said he could not recall the name of the U.S. prosecutor who visited him in jail along with four FBI agents in late 2009 or early 2010.â€¨â€¨
Posada was on the CIA payroll from the early 1960s until 1976. He participated indirectly in the Bay of Pigs invasion and later moved to Venezuela, where he served as head of that country’s intelligence service. He was arrested for planning the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.
A military court dismissed the charges, then Posada escaped from prison before a civilian trial against him was completed.â€¨â€¨In the 1980s, he helped Washington provide aid to the Contra rebels fighting Nicaragua’s leftist government.
In 2000, he was arrested in Panama in connection with a plot to kill Fidel Castro during a summit there. He was pardoned in 2004 and turned up in the US the following March, seeking American citizenship and prompting the immigration hearings that led to the current charges against him.â€¨â€¨
Cuba has complained bitterly that Posada has never been brought to justice for the bombings and other terrorist acts, and that even now the most serious sanction he could face on the charge of lying to immigration officials is likely to be well under 10 years in jail.â€¨â€¨
A Cuban medical examiner and an Interior Ministry investigator were to take the stand in El Paso on Tuesday, but their testimony was delayed at least one day after the defense raised a series of objections.â€¨â€¨In his interview, Cruz Leon, who has admitted setting the bomb that killed Italian Fabio di Celmo, said he never met Posada personally, but has no doubt he was the force behind everything.
â€¨â€¨He said he was paid and given explosives by another Salvadoran, Francisco Chavez Abarca. Chavez Abarca, who was arrested in Venezuela last year and extradited to Cuba, has acknowledged his role in the bombings, and testified at his Cuban trial that he was working for Posada.â€¨â€¨”
I am simply a soldier who they sent to a war that wasn’t mine, and which I never should have gotten mixed up in,” Cruz Leon said.â€¨â€¨He also said he was interviewed by the US prosecutor, but was not asked if he would be willing to testify at Posada’s trial.â€¨â€¨ Both Cruz Leon and Rodriguez gave interesting details of their time in Cuban prison, most of it spent on death row.â€¨â€¨
They said they were held together along with others convicted in the bombings in a special area of the maximum-security Guanajay jail, near Havana, which Cruz Leon described as “a jail within a jail.
“â€¨â€¨Both said they were treated with respect, and they have earned more favorable treatment as time has gone by. They said they spend most of the day together in a common area, are allowed to grow vegetables in a small garden inside the prison, and have been given an oven to cook their own food.
â€¨â€¨Cruz Leon said he was even granted permission to have a cat in his cell, his companion for 10 years before it died of old age last month.â€¨â€¨
A polite 39-year-old in a checked polo shirt and smart black shoes, Cruz Leon said he is a devout Roman Catholic and carries a deep sense of remorse about the death he caused.â€¨â€¨”I think I am going to hell, because I took a life and that cannot be forgiven,” he said.
SEE ALSO: Castro Slams US Release of Ex-CIA Agent
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