LONDON – Impassive and staring straight ahead, an Iraqi doctor was led into court by plainclothes security officers Saturday, the first suspect to appear on charges of plotting to bomb London’s entertainment district and Scotland’s busiest airport.
Police stepped up security across the British capital, where Prime Minister Gordon Brown laid flowers outside one of the train stations hit two years ago in suicide bombings that killed 52 commuters in the first militant Islamic strike on the United Kingdom.
Bilal Abdullah, a 27-year-old doctor born in Britain and raised in Iraq, was the only person in City of Westminster Magistrates Court to remain seated when the judge entered the room to the customary cry of “All rise!”
Abdullah was asked to stand, and did, as the charge of conspiring to cause explosions was read out. The charge against Abdullah refers to a plot taking place between Jan. 1 and July 1, suggesting prosecutors believe the attacks were planned well in advance.
Stocky, unshaven and wearing a white sweatshirt, he sat expressionless, speaking only to confirm his name and date of birth during the brief hearing. Seven other suspects have been detained over the foiled car bomb attacks.
His lawyers did not seek bail, and judge Anthony Evans ordered Abdullah held at a high-security prison until his next hearing, at London’s Central Criminal Court on July 27.
Britain remains on “severe” terrorism alert – the second-highest level – in the wake of the attacks. Police added patrols around London as the city marked the anniversary of the July 7, 2005, bombings with a simple and somber ceremony outside King’s Cross rail and subway station on one of the busiest tourist weekends of the summer.
Brown and other government ministers joined survivors and relatives of the dead in laying bouquets and wreaths of flowers at a memorial garden to the victims. More than 700 people were injured in the rush-hour attacks on three subway trains and a double-decker bus.
The latest plot was discovered when emergency workers spotted two cars packed with gas cylinders and nails June 29 in the busy heart of London’s West End – one outside a crowded nightclub, the other near Trafalgar Square. The next day, the Jeep smashed in flames into the security barriers at Glasgow airport.
Prosecutors suspect Abdullah and Kafeel Ahmed, believed to be the driver of the Jeep, carried out the attempted bombings in London before they returned to Scotland – where Abdullah worked at a Glasgow-area hospital – and attacked the airport.