Terror suspect charged with `conspiracy'

LONDON DEC. 4. A British Muslim, who was arrested last week under the Terrorism Act, has been charged with `conspiring' with Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber'', serving a life sentence in the U.S. for trying to blow up an American Airlines flight two years ago.

Sajid Badat (24), was produced before a magistrate today charged with "unlawfully and maliciously conspiring'' with Reid and `others' to cause an explosion likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property in Britain or elsewhere. He was also charged with possessing explosives, seized from his house in Gloucestershire, north-west England, after a series of raids on November 27.

Badat, who is of Pakistani origin, is among the 21 men arrested in a crackdown by the anti-terrorist police in the past week amid claims of an increased threat of a terror attack in the run-up to Christmas.

He is the first person in Britain to be charged with the alleged conspiracy to blow up the American Airlines plane carrying 197 passengers from Paris to Miami on December 22, 2001. But Reid claims that he was acting alone. The case against Reid is that he planned to destroy the plane by detonating a bomb concealed in his shoe, but he was overpowered while trying to activate the explosive.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment after pleading guilty to a string of charges.

Meanwhile, there was more criticism of the Home Secretary, David Blunkett's remarks about Badat as Muslim leaders of Gloucestershire called for his resignation for suggesting that the suspect was an Al-Qaeda associate even while police were still investigating.

Mr. Blunkett, however, maintained that he had not said anything that could prejudice a fair trial saying: "I didn't mention the name of the individual... or his background, or his religion or what he has done.... I drew attention to the fact that you don't use Section 41 of the Terrorism Act unless you have a prima facie case that you believe someone has been engaged in terrorism.''

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