Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Driverless car bomb plot man Farhad Salah found guilty

Farhad Salah and Andy Sami Star Image copyright Julia Quenzler
Image caption Farhad Salah and Andy Sami Star had been "attack-planning", the court heard

A man has been found guilty of trying to make a bomb to be used in a driverless car.

Farhad Salah was convicted at Sheffield Crown Court of preparing to commit acts of terrorism.

He "posed a very real risk to the safety of our communities", counter-terrorism police said.

The jury failed to reach a verdict on his co-defendant, chip-shop owner Andy Star, who was charged with the same offence.

Jurors heard how Salah, 24, an Iraqi Kurd, posted on social media about using a driverless car in an attack.

Prosecutors told the trial how Salah and Mr Star, 32, were in the early stages of testing small improvised explosive devices when they were arrested in raids on their homes in a Sheffield community centre and a Chesterfield fish and chip shop in December 2017

Mr Star has always insisted gunpowder and other items found in his flat above the chip shop were all connected to his long-standing interest in fireworks.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Police carried out lengthy searches in Chesterfield and Sheffield in December 2017

The jury was discharged after 15 hours of deliberations.

It was the second jury to try the pair, said Judge Paul Watson QC.

He said that another jury failed to reach verdicts on either defendant after a trial last year.

The judge told Mr Star a decision had been made that he should not face a second retrial and a not guilty verdict was recorded in his case.

He said Mr Star could go free but that he would continue to be detained on immigration matters.

When the judge recorded Star's formal acquittal, a woman shouted "Terrorist!" loudly from the jury box.

'Very real risk'

Salah was found guilty on a majority of 10 to two after the jury deliberated for almost three days.

The judge said he would be sentenced on 24 July.

Counter-terror police said he was not close to achieving his aim of putting a device in a vehicle but officers believe he was a "very real risk to the safety of the public in the UK".

The raids in Sheffield and Chesterfield happened following the Manchester Arena explosion and the attacks on Westminster and London Bridge, at a time when there were fears another atrocity was being planned for the Christmas period.

Gunpowder, homemade fuses and explosive chemicals were found at Mr Star's Mermaid Fish Bar, in Chesterfield, and similar items at the Fatima Community Centre, in Sheffield, were Salah lived.

Police said they have never been able to identify Salah's intended target.

'Matyrdom operation'

Opening the case, prosecutor Anne Whyte QC told the jury: "The intention was to manufacture a device which would be placed in a vehicle but controlled remotely so that no-one had to martyr themselves in the process."

She said that, a week before he was arrested, Salah messaged a contact on Facebook saying: "My only attempt is to find a way to carry out martyrdom operation with cars without driver..."

The court heard how both defendants were Iraqi nationals.

Salah arrived at Heathrow Airport in December 2014 and applied for asylum. This application had not been determined by the time he was arrested.

Mr Star was arrested in 2008 on suspicion of being an illegal immigrant, later telling officials he had arrived in the UK by lorry.

He was given "leave to remain" in 2010 and eventually given refugee status, with "indefinite leave to remain" in February 2016.

In a statement released after he was cleared of preparing to commit acts of terrorism, he said: "I pleaded not guilty on the first day at court, I gave evidence during two trials, I gave a full account in court as to exactly what had happened.

"I denied being an Isis supporter, I denied being a terrorist, I explained that my family had fought Isis and we continue to do so to this day."

Miss Whyte told the jury that Salah was a supporter of so-called Islamic State, despite his being an Iraqi Kurd, a nationality usually associated with the fight against the terror group.

Det Ch Supt Martin Snowden, head of counter-terrorism policing North East, said: "Salah clearly had an extremist mind set and communication from him indicates that he saw his situation as critical.

"He claimed he was a terrorist who would be judged by God.

"While our investigation did not establish the target of a potential attack, Salah posed a very real risk to the safety of our communities."

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