Three men have been found not guilty of helping to plan the July 7, 2005 suicide bombings in London which killed 56 people, although two were convicted on lesser charges.
Relatives of the victims, meanwhile, renewed their calls for an independent inquiry into the attacks, which were the deadliest terrorist bombings in British history, saying that no one had yet been brought to justice.
Waheed Ali, 25, Mohammed Shakil, 32, and Sadeer Saleem, 28 — the first, and still the only, individuals charged in connection with the attacks – were accused of carrying out a two-day reconnaissance mission seven months before the bombings on three Underground trains and a double-decker bus.
The sites allegedly considered included the Natural History Museum and the London Aquarium.
But Ali and Shakil were convicted of a second charge of conspiring to attend a place for terrorist training, and will be sentenced Wednesday.
As the verdicts were read out, after eight days of deliberation by the jury, Ali smiled, Saleem wiped his eyes and Shakil mouthed “thank you” to the jurors.
Outside the court, in a statement read by his lawyer, Saleem criticised police and prosecutors for charging him based on “guilt by association” and despite having only “the flimsiest of evidence.”
“I am indebted to these 12 courageous individuals who have now cleared my name and allowed me the opportunity of seeing my children grow up,” Saleem added, referring to the jury.
The verdict in the three-month trial at Kingston Crown Court follows the trio\’s earlier trial which ended in August 2008 after the jury failed to reach a verdict.
The men, who grew up in the same South Asian community in the northern English city of Leeds as July 7 bombers Mohammed Siddique Khan and Shezhad Tanweer, were arrested in March 2007 and charged the following month.
During the trial, they admitted making a trip to London in December 2004 with the two other London bombers Hasib Hussain and Jermaine Lindsay, but insisted it was a “social outing.”
Ali said he wanted to visit his sister in the capital and the group used the opportunity to see London\’s landmarks, but prosecutors alleged they were conducting a “hostile reconnaissance” mission.
\’Terror training camps\’
The court heard that between 2001 and the London bombings, both Ali and Shakil made visits to Pakistan and attended terror training camps.
Ali visited the camps with Khan in 2001, and Shakil made a similar trip with Khan in 2003, where they were trained to use machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and assault rifles.
“These two men learned to fight at training camps attended by other terrorists,” John McDowall, the head of the Metropolitan Police\’s Counter Terrorism Command, said after the verdict.
He added: “Ali and Shakil clearly associated with, and shared the terrorist beliefs of, the London bombers.”
The pair were arrested on March 22, 2007 at Manchester airport in northwest England as they attempted to board a flight to Pakistan.
Saleem was detained the same day at his home.
None of the men attempted to hide their support for jihad and the defence of Muslim lands during the trial, but all three said they did not support suicide bombings and were unaware of the July 7 attacks before they happened.
The July 7 attacks — which occurred as Group of Eight leaders were meeting in Scotland, and a day after a euphoric London celebrated winning the 2012 Olympic Games — killed the four bombers and 52 other people.
Campaigners and relatives of the victims said a full independent inquiry into the bombings was required immediately.
“We are not looking for people to blame, but we also know that we have not been told the whole truth,” said Graham Foulkes, whose 22-year-old son David was killed in one of the Underground bombings.