Muslims Weekly, New York
By Yvonne Ridley
If you picked up the British newspapers last week you would have read all about the Algerian monster who conned his way into England to set up a factory of terror producing the deadly chemical ricin.
The chilling headlines alone would have made the hair on the back of your neck stand up as you poured over every sensational word. Just a glance at the carefully framed close-up picture of the demonic-looking Kamel Bourgass would have convinced you of his evil intent.
He was jailed for 17 years after being told by the trial judge that he took part in an al-Qaida conspiracy to destabalise our peaceful, western society.
His conviction at the historic Old Bailey court marked the end of one of the longest trials in legal history.
"Good riddance, lock him up and throw away the key," some might say, but you know we could be looking at one of the biggest cases of injustice to hit the British courts in erm, well, at least a week.
Let's examine the facts - something the police obviously did not do and something I am afraid most of the media failed to do either confirming that most of my ex-colleagues are bloated, lazy, spoonfed hacks who couldn't find their own ass if it caught fire.
First of all, if I was to embark on a terrorist rampage to destabalise the western world my weapon of choice would not be ricin. It is neither a mass killer nor an effective, easy to use chemical.
I may as well go on the rampage with a pink feather duster and try and tickle people to death.
Ricin was last used as a weapon more than three decades ago when former KGB agents invented quite an ingenious little device to inject ricin in to Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov.
The job was outsourced to a couple of KGB agents who then hired an Italian hit man who followed the courageously outspoken Markov over London's Waterloo Bridge.
The hitman prodded him in his right thigh with the tip of an umbrella and, as he boarded the bus, Markov noticed a spot of blood on his jeans. He discovered a pimple-like swelling and when he returned home he became very sick, with a high fever.
The next day Markov was admitted to St James's hospital, Balham. Examination of his right thigh showed a central puncture wound of about 2mm diameter, and a circular area of inflammation. A diagnosis of septicaemia was made at the time and Markov died on the third day after the injury was inflicted.
During the post-mortem examination a tiny metal sphere the size of a pinhead was removed from the wound. It was 1.52 mm in diameter and composed of 90% platinum and 10% iridium.
It had two holes bored through it, with diameters of 0.35mm, leaving 0.28 cubic mm available for toxin retention.
After the fall of the Soviet Union it was revealed that ricin was used in the umbrella mechanism for injecting poison spheres into a victim, which was developed in the secret KGB laboratory "the Chamber". Two former KGB officers Oleg Kalugin and Oleg Gordievsky publicly admitted to Soviet involvement.
Well pardon me, I don't want to be disrespectful to the memory of the courageous Mr Markov, but that seems like an awful lot of fuss to bump off just one man.
But you see ricin is not a mass killer, despite what the British media would have us believe. It would have to be manufactured in huge, huge doses to knock off just one individual.
And if I wanted to shake the very foundations of the Washington Administration and the British Government, I could think of a better target than a few door knobs and shopping trolleys in Holloway, north London as reported in the English media.
So where was all of this ricin nonsense propagated? Well it just tumbled out of the mouth of the biggest story-teller since the Brothers Grimm. Yes, the former US secretary of state Colin Powell.
I've said before it is very easy to tell when Mr Powell lies - his lips move. Remember, this is the man who saw no evidence of a massacre in Mai Lai during the Vietnam War and no evidence of a massacre in Jenin in 2003.
In fact the only thing Powell says he has seen is Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq! Remember how he held up satellite pictures in the United Nations arguing the case for war.
Around the same time he said with authority that al-Qaida cells were plotting to launch ricin attacks across Britain and he even talked authoritatively of the "UK poison cell".
Kamel Bourgass came into the frame after a so-called fellow al-Qaida operative sang like a canary from his cage in Algeria. Hmm, I wonder if that was while he was hanging upside down by his toe nails and just before the electric shock treatment.
Whatever, he later withdrew all allegations against Kamel Bourgass and denied any knowledge of a ricin factory, but British intelligence wasn't going to let a few little facts like that get in the way of this very, tall story.
Now while Bourgass was sentenced for his part in the ricin factory conspiracy the media seemed to overlook one minor detail ... there were no co-conspirators.
You see the conspiracy trial collapsed after fellow defendants Sidali Faddag, Samir Asli, Mouloud Bouhrama, Mustapha Taleb, Mouloud Sihali, and Aissa Kalef , were found not guilty of conspiracy to murder by plotting ricin attacks and, generally speaking, not guilty of conspiracy to do anything else.
The prosecution failed to provide any conclusive forensic evidence of ricin, ricin manufacuring or ricin recipes, and any links to al-Qaida appeared to be the invention of the media prompted by the ever ubiquitous 'police sources'.
Kamel Bourgass had been previously convicted of the murder of a British policeman in a media-free trial and so will spend life locked up, although his defence team is considering lodging an appeal.
But let's get back to this infamous ricin plot which whipped up so much hysteria and Islamaphobia across Britain, the rest of Europe and the US. Where is the ricin?
I have to ask because the ricin story spilled over into the press the next day asking that very question. Unidentified police sources were quoted as saying they feared Bourgass was going to lace microwave meals with ricin he had manufactured in the ricin factory.
Hello? What ricin factory? What ricin? I will say this only once, and once only - NO RICIN WAS EVER FOUND. NO RICIN WAS EVER MANUFACTURED. WE WERE ALL CONNED.
Basically it doesn't exist and never did and was a product of the imagination of Conman Powell and the nodding dogs in British and US intelligence ... and those other weasily little politicians who wanted to ratchet up the fear across the so-called free world.
I feel like going down to Scotland Yard and making a citizens arrest of those plods from the anti-terrorist branch who are clearly guilty of taking money by deception - their wages paid for by tax-payers like you and me! I want my money back and I want those incompetent fools put in a job more suited to their mentality - house cleaning, although they'd probably try and sweep everything under the carpet.
News of their September 2002 and January 2003 dawn raids whizzed around the world after they claimed to have found a ricin factory.
I was even questioned! According to the detectives who came to see me
I had bought a book from a mosque bookshop (what else would you buy in a bookshop) from one of the so-called ricin brothers. I was then shown scores of pictures of olive-skinned men who could all be in the Usama bin Laden tribute band if such a thing existed. Sorry, but one man with a beard looks pretty much like another to me.
Around the same time CNN reported that Colin Powell had opined that the British ricin had actually come from Iraq.
"The ricin that is bouncing around Europe now originated in Iraq - not in the part of Iraq that is under Saddam Hussein's control, but his security forces know all about it," Colin Powell said at the time.
Well wouldn't that have made a manufacturing base in Britain redundant? This is the trouble when you have a bad memory and tell elaborate tales, Powell.
Of course he was up to telling his old porkies again, because of there was never any ricin. We went through this nonsense in the 90s with Red Mercury ... remember that one?
Kamel Bourgass should be a free man today except he was also convicted of a murder of a policeman who took part in a subsequent raid on his flat. This was not the act of a terrorist, the tragic killing of the policeman was carried out by a panicked man who resorted to extreme violence to get out of his situation.
Of course by the time Bourgass was taken to Hellmarsh, wary prison officers were warned by police that he was a crazed ninja-trained killer who had the strength of Superman, the agility of Spider Man and the capabilities of Harry Houdini. Imagine the security surrounding Bourgass who was locked in solitary confinement for five months and fed food through a hatch at the base of his cell door.
I was told by an inmate susbequently released that Bourgass was "treated like a dog and pushed into the equivalent of a broom cupboard for months before prison officers realised he wasn't a threat" and was more terrified of them than they were of him.
"They used to throw his food at him like a dog when he first arrived," recalled the former detainee.
I suppose it could be argued that had the ricin hysteria not been whipped up then we may never have heard of Kamel Bourgass and the policeman would still be alive today to enjoy family life.
If you want to read about this whole sorry mess then check out National Security Notes on the web: http://www.globalsecurity.org/org/nsn/index.html
* Yvonne Ridley is a tv presenter on the political and current affairs show The Agenda which goes out on the Islam Channel every weekday from 10am GMT. Check out the website www.islamchannel.tv
for programme times. She is also a RESPECT candidate in the Leicester South constituency for the British General Election on May 5 2005. This article was originally written for her column in a New York newspaper.
SOURCE: Stop Political Terror