Brother and sister cleared of ties to Tel Aviv bombing
By Jason Bennetto, Crime Correspondent
Published: 29 November 2005
The brother and sister denied the charges, saying that they had no idea what Omar Sharif was planning.
The brother and sister of a would-be British suicide bomber have been cleared of failing to alert authorities about his mission in Israel.
Zahid and Parveen Sharif were accused of knowing their brother Omar Sharif had plotted to blow himself up along with another Briton, Asif Hanif, at Mike's Place club in Tel Aviv in April 2003.
Hanif's bomb detonated, killing three and wounding 65 but Sharif fled after failing to set off his bomb. His decomposed body was found floating off the Mediterranean coast almost two weeks later.
The brother and sister were charged under new laws that put a positive duty on people to inform the police of any impending terrorist attack, even overseas. This is the first time anyone has been tried with the new offence, which falls under Section 38 of the Terrorism Act 2000, introduced after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States.
Parveen Sharif was also found not guilty at the Old Bailey of inciting her brother to go through with the bombing. It emerged after the trial that she had been warned for reportedly telling pupils at a school where she was teaching that she was on Osama bin Laden's "team".
Parveen Sharif, 37, and her brother Zahid Sharif, 38, both from Derby, hugged in the dock at the end of the case yesterday.
The court was told that Omar Sharif and Hanif, a student from Hounslow in west London, were recruited by the Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas in England before travelling to Israel.
After the bombing, police found two e-mails which formed the basis of the case against Sharif's family.
The first, sent by Omar to Zahid, warned that "difficult times may lie ahead" for his family and to "get rid of any material you may consider problematic".
The second, sent by Ms Sharif seven days before the attack, told Omar to "stay focused and determined". "There is no time to be weak and emotional," it said.
The brother and sister denied the charges, saying that they had no idea what Omar Sharif was planning and that the e-mails had been misinterpreted.
Ms Sharif, a primary school teacher, was also acquitted of encouraging her brother to carry out the bombing at the Israeli club.
The case was a retrial after a jury last year failed to reach a verdict. Omar's wife, Tahira, was cleared at the first trial of failing to disclose information.
Giving evidence in her defence, Parveen Sharif said it was sick to suggest that she sent her brother an e-mail a week before he targeted the Israeli bar to encourage him on his mission.
"That is such a sick idea. I did not want Tahira to be a widow or their kids to be fatherless."
After the court case it was disclosed that during pre-trial submissions Parveen Sharif had allegedly said to children she was teaching in 2001: "Hands up everybody who has got relations in New York."
At least 10 pupils claimed that after waiting for a response, she allegedly said: "Well, they're dead." She also allegedly told other children that she was on Osama bin Laden's "team".
Following the alleged remarks, Grampian Primary School, in Sinfin, Derby, complained to Ms Sharif's employers and said they did not want to re-employ her as a supply teacher.
A spokesman for her then employer, Select Education plc, said: "These reports were both made in the week commencing 15 October 2001, and, once brought to our attention, were immediately discussed with her.
"Parveen Sharif accepted that the comments were inappropriate and undertook not to repeat them."
Evidence from former pupils was outlined to the court, but a judge ruled it should not go before jurors.
Outside court yesterday Mr Sharif read out a statement on behalf of himself and his sister. "We want to make it clear we did not know what our brother was going to do. It shocked us as much as everyone else and we are still shocked.
"There were many misunderstandings about our religion and culture in this case but people tried to reach out and understand."
Bomber's sister 'told pupils she supported bin Laden' By Sean O'Neill
THE sister of a British suicide bomber was barred from teaching at two primary schools after allegedly telling pupils that she was "on Osama bin Laden's team".
Parveen Sharif, who was acquitted yesterday of failing to tell police about her brother's plan to blow up a Tel Aviv bar, is said to have made the inflammatory remarks after the September 11 atrocities.
Grampian School in Sinfin, Derby, and Somerlea Park School in Alfreton, Derbyshire, complained to the employment agency that supplied her and said that they did not want her to teach their pupils again.
One child, who was aged 10 at the time, told police: "She says she's on bin Laden's team and it's a good job that bin Laden crashed into the twin towers.
"She says ‘Hands up everybody that's got relations in New York?'. And then she goes, ‘Well they're dead'."
The Old Bailey jury that cleared Ms Sharif, and another brother, Zahid, 37, was not told of her alleged comments because a judge ruled them inadmissible in evidence.
The judge said that the children were unreliable witnesses whose statements could not be corroborated.
The case against the Sharifs hinged on the interpretation of e-mail traffic between Omar Sharif, 27, and his family in Derby before he embarked on his suicide mission in April 2003.
The bomber told his relatives to destroy "problematic material" and delete his message. Ms Sharif replied telling him to be strong, focused and show no emotion. Days later Sharif and Asif Hanif, 21, another Briton, attacked Mike's Bar, murdering three people and injuring sixty-five others.
The jury decided that the e-mails were not sufficient proof that Ms Sharif and her brother knew about the suicide mission.
The Sharifs embraced as the not guilty verdicts were returned, signalling the end of a two-and-a-half year legal ordeal that saw them tried twice at the Old Bailey. Last year a different jury had been unable to agree verdicts on their case and a retrial was ordered. The two trials are estimated to have cost in excess of £2 million.
Ms Sharif, who was cleared of a second charge of inciting her brother, told the court that her e-mail had been misinterpreted.She said: "I cannot believe he would have contemplated such a thing — that he would think of planting a bomb and going and killing innocent people. It is beyond me."
Outside court, Zahid Sharif said: "We want to make it clear we did not know what our brother was going to do. It shocked us as much as everyone else."
His brother, a father of three and former student at King's College London, did not die in the blast because his suicide belt failed to detonate. Sharif fled the scene and his body was found two weeks later in the Mediterranean.
He and Hanif, whose bomb did explode, were followers of the extremist cleric Omar Bakri Mohammad, now exiled from Britain and living in Lebanon. The bombers attended meetings of the al-Muhajiroun group and Sharif worshipped at a small mosque in Derby run by Bakri Mohammad's followers.
A police search of his home on Northumberland Street, Derby, uncovered notes from a lecture on suicide bombings, which had been made by Tahira Tabassum, Sharif's wife. On the same pages she had written Bakri Mohammad's mobile phone number.
Al-Muhajiroun literature was also found at Ms Sharif's home and her brother, Zahid, was a follower of Hizb ut Tahrir, the hardline Islamic party that Tony Blair wants to proscribe.
Ms Sharif taught at Grampian School on September 24 and 25, 2001. Complaints were made by pupils on her second day. She taught at Somerlea Park for only one day the same month before staff received complaints.
Select Education said: "These reports were both made in the week commencing October 15, 2001, and, once brought to our attention, were immediately discussed with her. Parveen Sharif accepted that the comments were inappropriate and undertook not to repeat them."
THE DISPUTED EMAILS
22/4/2003 Omar Sharif, in Palestinian Territories, to Zahid Sharif, Derby
"I hope u are well. Please take care of yourself. Difficult times may lay ahead for you and the family in the next few weeks or months if Allah wills. Plan now and get rid of any material you may consider problematic. "Please give a copy of the following message to my wife. 'After reaching our destination Allah guided us to his friends who were very happy to see us, and they said they needed our help very much. I hope you are strong. Know that everything is just a test, and Allah will reward the patient ones. Look after Khadijah, Hamza and Asyiah [their children] and bring them up well. We did not spend a long time together in this world but I hope through Allah's mercy and your patience we can spend an eternity together. We will talk later, I hope to go and be with the best of company soon, you will hear from my friend the good news ... Make dua [prayers] that Allah makes me sincere, firm and that he accepts my actions'. Delete this message."
23/4/2003 Parveen Sharif to Omar Sharif (extract)
"We are happy that you are focused in your studies. inshAllah [God willing] we all have to be firm and focused with reality as time is slipping away, there is really no time to be weak and emotional ... when we see you again it will be like only half a day has passed ... You have no time for emotions. from parveen and everyone. May Allah take care of us and join us all soon."
26/4/2003 Omar Sharif to Parveen Sharif (extract)
"salam parv, may Allah bless you. thank you very much for the letter. it was very helpful. inshAllah we will see each other soon. remember me in your duas."