Thursday, February 23, 2012

BA baggage handler 'who was groomed to be a terrorist' claims he was sacked for being a Muslim

a terrorist sympathiser' linked to a notorious airline bomb plot is claiming he was unfairly sacked as a British Airways baggage handler because of his religion.

Counter terrorist police found an apparent plan to groom Shahzada Khan to place a package on a plane bound for America.

During an investigation into Rajib Karim, who was jailed for 30 years last March for plotting to place a bomb on an airplane heading to America, police discovered emails between Karim and Khan, as well as emails between Karim and hate-preacher Anwar al-Awlaki.

Cracking the heavily-encrypted emails, police suspected Karim and al-Awlaki were grooming Khan to help them smuggle a bomb onto an American-bound plane.

When police checked Khan's computer, they discovered speeches by Osama Bin Laden and al-Awlaki, the tribunal heard.

There were also clips of 'martyrdom' and explosions interspersed with an image of a BA executive clubcard.

A PDF file was being downloaded when officers arrived at Khan's home in Slough, which described America as: 'The land of shame, crime, vile, filth and evi
'Furthermore it is the most populous in whore house, homosexuality and lesbianism.'

The tribunal heard that police then had to decrypt Khan's emails, which were so heavily protected it took police months to break through layer after layer of encryption.

The emails contained coded references to a man called 'shzd' being groomed to place a bomb on a plane, and Khan's phone number was saved on Karim's phone under the same four-letter code.

Police also discovered Khan had given money to Karim, which they suspected was to help fund terrorist activities.

A knife was also discovered in Khan's work locker, which he denied knowledge of, and photographs of planes were found on his mobile phone, although he said these were taken in his role as a health and safety representative.

Khan was arrested during the counter terror investigation but ultimately released without charge due to a lack of direct evidence, the tribunal was told.

Khan admitted meeting Karim up to 10 times for dinner, as well as playing football and cricket with the terrorist. he also invited him into his own home.

Following the allegations, British Airways sacked Khan last December,.

But Khan has now launched legal action, saying he was unfairly dismissed for religious reasons.

Sara Edwards, who was a baggage operations manager at Heathrow during Khan's employment, told the tribunal in Reading how she was 'very alarmed' when police handed over transcripts of messages sent between Karim and al-Awlaki.

She said: 'My key concern was that Mr Khan posed a security risk to BA due to his connections with terrorism.

'While there was no actual evidence of Khan being involved in any terrorist plots I considered it far too much of a risk to British Airways to keep him in the business.

'Any link to terrorism cannot be tolerated within an organisation which is a key target for terrorist groups.'

Former BA worker Rajib Karim was jailed for 30 years last March
Former BA worker Rajib Karim was jailed for 30 years last March
She added: 'In my mind Khan could have been an individual who was in an appropriate role which would allow him access to a plane to place a package on board.'

Miss Edwards asked Khan, who lives in Slough, about the videos found by police on his computer, and Khan said they were only downloaded to keep up with current affair, she told the tribunal.

Photos of planes were found on his mobile phone but he claimed they were simply taken due to flaws on the aircraft which he wanted to highlight as a health and safety representative.

Miss Edwards described how police revealed to the company he had been unhelpful during days of interviews while under arrest during the counter terror investigation.

Material handed over to the company by detectives also revealed Karim had Mr Khan’s number saved in his phone under the name 'shzd.'

The same four letters were used in emails with al-Awlaki to refer to the man they hoped would one day place a bomb on a plane bound for America.

The communications were so heavily protected it took police months to break through layer after layer of encryption.

Miss Edwards said: 'DS Dickson explained that in these messages Mr Karim had discussed planning attacks within the UK and the USA, and getting a package on board a plane.

'DS Dickson then set out extracts from the decoded messages which referred to Mr Khan.

'These strongly suggest that Mr Karim had discussed terrorism with Mr Khan and stated that Mr Khan had agreed to contribute to a terrorist cause, although had not wanted to know what the money was being used for.

'It was as a result of these decoded messages that Mr Khan had been arrested on suspicion of being concerned in terrorist financing,' she said.

'In reading this statement I had serious concerns about whether British Airways could continue to employ Mr Khan.

'This statement indicated that Mr Khan had been involved with Mr Karim, that he had given him money knowing that this was for the purposes of terrorism even if he didn’t know precisely what the money would be used for.

'Without a proper explanation from Mr Karim, it seemed to me that the anti-American documents and contents of the DVD were suggestive of him at the very least having sympathetic views with terrorist causes.'

The tribunal heard how a British Airways employee had gone to police once the terror plot was rumbled and blamed Mr Khan for a previous incident, in 2007.

A baggage pallet destined for Islamabad, in Pakistan, had been put on a flight to New York and police had been called in to investigate.

However, neither the police nor British Airways could find any evidence Khan was involved. 

The tribunal heard that Karim worked for the airline as an IT expert but needed a contact with an airside pass to place a package on a plane.

Mr Khan had an airside pass, which was confiscated after his arrest and had not been returned by the time he was sacked.

Mr Khan, in a subsequent sacking appeal hearing, which he lost, denied being the 'shzd' referred to in Karim's emails.
A statement from British Airways said: 'The safety and security of our customers, aircraft and employees is always our overriding priority and we will never compromise in this area.

'Following information from the Metropolitan Police and our own thorough investigation, we concluded that we could not continue to employ Mr Khan.

'We reject the allegations and we will be resisting the claims being made against us.'

Mr Khan is still to give evidence to the tribunal, which continues today.

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