August 16th 2008

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Solzhenitsyn, towering 20th-century prophet

EDITORIAL: Australia's faltering economy: a way out

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Does Peter Costello have what it takes?

BANKING: Bendigo Bank praised by Reserve Bank governor

INTERNATIONAL TRADE: Why the Doha trade round collapsed

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Plum postings for Australia's new aristocracy

RADICAL ENVIRONMENTALISM: Animal rights fanatics threatening our exports

INTERNET: ISP-level porn filtering moves a step closer

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Musical chairs

EDUCATION: An education system worth fighting for

WESTERN AUSTRALIA: Opportunities for minor parties in WA election

UNITED KINGDOM: London transport bomb plot trial collapses

SPECIAL FEATURE: 1968 Prague Spring remembered

CINEMA: The Dark Knight - Heath Ledger's 'creepy and mesmerising' finale


BOOKS: THE GREAT ARAB CONQUESTS: How the spread of Islam changed the world we live in, by Hugh Kennedy

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London transport bomb plot trial collapses

by John Miller

News Weekly, August 16, 2008
A British jury has failed to reach verdicts in the trial of three men charged with helping plan the 7/7 London terrorist bombings. John Miller, a senior intelligence officer, reports.

"It will always remain the best joke made by the democratic system that it provided its deadly enemies with the means of destroying it." - Josef Goebbels.

Four suicide-bombers blew themselves up aboard three separate underground trains and a bus in London during the rush hour on July 7, 2005. The explosions killed 52 people and injured 700.

The terrorist bombings have been described as the worst attack on the British capital since World War II.

The four bombers, who all died in the attack, were British-born Muslims who were seemingly normal and integrated young men.

In the recent trial, the three defendants, accused of helping plan the attack, acknowledged that they knew the suicide-bombers, but denied the charges of conspiring with them to cause explosions. They were the only other persons charged in connection with the atrocity.

Prosecution evidence included reports of the defendants carrying out "hostile reconnaissance" missions at a series of locations which bore a "striking similarity" to where the suicide-bombers subsequently carried out their attacks.

Furthermore, just before Christmas the previous year, the defendants had taken part in a test run for the 2005 attacks and accompanied the suicide-bombers reconnoitring the transport system.

For those working in counter-terrorism, the failure of the jury to reach a decision after 15 days of deliberations is a major setback. However, it is extremely likely that the Crown will seek a retrial, and the defendants have been held in custody in anticipation of such a step.

The British and Commonwealth legal system ensures that a defendant is presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond all reasonable doubt.

We are, however, faced with a foe who does not recognise our institutions or the legitimacy of our law; yet this same rule of law serves to protect them in the same way that it protects the law-abiding.

It is perfectly justifiable to ask whether we should establish special courts to try terrorist suspects, or, at the very least, remove some of the legal protections they currently enjoy.

This will be an unpopular suggestion, but, out of respect for the victims of terrorism and those seeking to prevent further atrocities, the idea should not be dismissed out of hand.

In a somewhat depressing footnote, on the day that the presiding judge discharged the jury, the final design of a permanent memorial to the victims of the attack was unveiled.

It will take the form of 52 steel posts, erected in London's Hyde Park and grouped in four clusters, to reflect the four attacks. Alongside the memorial will be a plaque on a grass bank listing the 52 victims' names.

A spokesman for the group representing the families of the 7/7 victims has described it as a fitting tribute. No doubt it will be, but it will not bring one of the dead back to life.

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