Four men found guilty of plotting a “Lee Rigby-style” terror attack are challenging their convictions, claiming they did not receive a fair trial.
Naweed Ali, Mohibur Rahman and Khobaib Hussain, who dubbed themselves the Three Musketeers before recruiting their fourth member, Tahir Aziz, had prepared to strike police and military targets on British soil.
They were arrested in August 2016 after MI5 went to bug Ali’s car and discovered a bag containing a “terrorist kit”, including a partially-complete pipe bomb and a meat cleaver.
The West Midlands-based gang, who sought out radical preacher Anjem Choudary, were found guilty at the Old Bailey in August last year of preparing terrorist acts.
They maintained their innocence throughout the trial, claiming the incriminating evidence was planted by an undercover police officer known as Vincent, the boss of a fake firm called Hero Couriers.
They are now seeking to overturn their convictions at the Court of Appeal, arguing their four-month trial was “unfair” because it was allowed to continue amid four separate UK terror attacks.
Lawyers for the four argued on Thursday that the trial should have been postponed following major incidents in Westminster, London Bridge, Manchester and Finsbury Park.
Stephen Kamlish QC, for Ali, told senior judges the trial jury was likely to have found it impossible to consider the case properly in the circumstances.
He said: “We say that resulted in them being unable to follow their oath – not because they were avoiding it, but because they just couldn’t risk letting them [the defendants] go.
“All we asked for was an adjournment, we submit we should have got it.”
The lawyers also said it was “at least arguable” that the trial jury was “tainted” after one juror – who was discharged – asked if a detective involved in the case was single on behalf of another juror.
Joel Bennathan QC, for Rahman, told the court it was clear one juror had “an affection at some level” for Detective Sergeant Ryan Chambers, which was “repeatedly pursued”, and that the other jurors said nothing to court staff.
He said: “It is beyond doubt this takes away any idea that they are a conscientious jury, properly equipped to deal with the seriousness of the task.”
The men’s legal teams further argued that they should have been given more information about Vincent, and said Mr Justice Globe’s summing up of the case was “biased” in relation to the undercover officer.
Lawyers for the Crown Prosecution Service opposed the appeals and argued there was no unfairness during the trial which was capable of rendering the convictions unsafe.
Ali, 30, and Hussain, 25, both of Evelyn Road, Sparkhill, Birmingham, and Rahman, 34, of High Lane, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, were each given minimum terms of 20 years.
Aziz, 39, of Wulstan Road, Cobridge, Stoke-on-Trent, was jailed for at least 15 years for his lesser role.
Lord Justice Holroyde, sitting with Mr Justice King and Judge Keith Cutler, said the court will give its ruling on the case at a later date.