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Profile: Michel Massih

Michel Massih was a participant or observer in the following events:

April 8-12, 2004: Ricin Accused Mostly Freed

After one of Britain’s longest criminal trials and 74 hours of deliberation, the jury acquits Mouloud Sihali, David Khalef, Sidali Feddag, and Mustapha Taleb of conspiracy to carry out a chemical attack. The jury decides that the prosecution has failed to prove any existence of an al-Qaeda plot or any ability to produce weapons of mass destruction (see January 7, 2003). On April 12, the jury acquits Kamal Bourgass of the most serious charge—conspiracy to carry out the attack—but finds him guilty of “conspiracy to commit a public nuisance by the use of poisons or explosives to cause disruption, fear or injury.” The judge sentences him to 17 years in prison. [Independent, 4/17/2005] He has previously been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a policeman, as well as receiving jail terms for the attempted murder of other policemen during a fight when he was arrested. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 248] The government admits that no ricin was found in the invesigation, only 20 castor beans, some cherry stones, apple pips, and botched “nicotine poison” in a Nivea jar (see January 5, 2003). Director of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald drops the charges against four other alleged conspirators the day before their trial starts. Khalid Alwerfeli, Samir Asli, Mouloud Bouhrama, and Kamal Merzoug are formally declared innocent. Mohammed Meguerba has yet to stand trial in Algeria and remains in custody. [Independent, 4/17/2005] Five of the acquitted make fresh asylum applications. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office had been in talks with Algeria about returning the men, but lawyers point to Meguerba’s alleged torture at the hands of the Algerian security forces as evidence that it will be impossible to deport any of the ricin defendants despite them being cleared (see September 18, 2002-January 3, 2003). [London Times, 5/9/2005] The cost of this trial and another related one exceeds £20 million. At one point, 800 police officers worked on the investigation, which included more than 100 arrests and operations in 16 countries. [Guardian, 4/14/2005]

Entity Tags: Mouloud Sihali, Samir Asli, Mouloud Bouhrama, Sidali Feddag, Mohammed Meguerba, Mustapha Taleb, Khalid Alwerfeli, Kamal Bourgass, David Khalef, Michel Massih, Ken Macdonald, Kamal Merzoug

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Gareth Peirce, who acted as solicitor for three of the men acquitted in the ricin plot trial (see April 8-12, 2004), says that “there was a great deal that this country was led to believe in that in part caused it to go to war on Iraq, erected on the basis of an alleged major conspiracy involving ricin.” He adds: “[W]ithin 48 hours, Porton Down knew that ricin had not been found. If enormous public concern and fear has been generated, then the responsibility clearly of the Government is to reassure people that it was in fact a false alarm, that no poisons were found. But at no stage has any public correction been made.” Kamal Bourgass’s lawyer, Michel Massih, dismisses the charges as “utter nonsense, complete and utter fantasy… one could simply buy weed killer or rat poison from a shop in Britain.” Bourgass received a life sentence for the murder of DC Stephen Oake (see June 29, 2004). Massih further states: “[I]t is around the time of the build-up to the war in the Middle East. You have a scenario which is almost begging for there to be something… then on January 8 this rubbish comes out. The lies Bourgass told the police were almost forced upon him… they were the lies of a seriously frightened man… fanciful, silly lies. Asked about a black bag discovered in the flat in which the recipes were hidden, Bourgass claimed he had found it in the street in Brixton. Asked why he had kept it, he replied ‘because I’m stupid.’ This was not a cunning plot; this man was knee-jerking.” Suggestions for Bourgass’s motives include poison forgery for hoax purposes and targeting of the Jewish community in north London. Although no motive was clearly established at trial, it was made clear that Bourgass had acted alone. [Guardian, 4/15/2004] Journalist Duncan Campbell of the Guardian, called as an expert witness during the trial, says of the affair: “[W]e have all been victims of this mass deception. I do not doubt that Bourgass would have contemplated causing harm if he was competent to do so. But he was an Islamist yobbo on his own, not an al-Qaeda-trained superterrorist. An ASBO [Anti-Social Behavior Order] might be appropriate.” [Guardian, 4/14/2005]

Entity Tags: Duncan Campbell, Michel Massih, Gareth Peirce, Kamal Bourgass

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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