x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

UK denies would-be bomber parole

A Jordanian serving 45 years in a British prison for trying to blow up an Israeli airliner has lost his latest bid for parole.

LONDON // A Jordanian serving 45 years in a British prison for trying to blow up an Israeli airliner with explosives he hid in his girlfriend's luggage, has lost his latest bid for parole.

Britain's parole board had previously recommended the release of Nezar Hindawi, only for successive Labour and Conservative justice secretaries to overrule it.

Now, a change in the law means that ministers can no longer quash parole board decisions in cases such as Hindawi's, and it had been widely assumed that the lengthy legal battle to get him freed from the longest specified sentence imposed by an English court, would finally be successful.

In 2009, the Parole Board recommended that Hindawi be released after serving 23 years in prison because he posed "no more than a minimal risk to the public and his remaining risk could be safely managed".

Now, however, the board appears to have changed its mind and recommended Hindawi, 57, not be released this year. No explanation has been made public.

It was in April, 1986, that Hindawi tricked his then fiancée, Anne Murphy, a 32-year-old Irish woman pregnant with his child, into carrying a bomb on to an El Al airliner leaving London Heathrow for Tel Aviv.

Israeli agents became suspicious and intercepted her luggage. They found three pounds of Semtex plastic explosive hidden among her clothes by Hindawi, who had joined the PLO after his village was burnt during the Six Day War.

Hindawi became eligible to be considered for parole in 2001 after serving a third of his sentence. But successive government ministers have rejected his early release, sparking a series of legal battles. The most recent was last year after a decision in November 2009 by Labour Justice Secretary Jack Straw, subsequently upheld by his Conservative successor Ken Clarke, to reject the parole board decision that Hindawi be released early.

Lawyers for Hindawi claimed that ministers were ignoring the board's advice because they were "implacably opposed" to his early release, and took the case to the High Court in London, where judges quashed the parole refusals saying they were "unfair and legally flawed".

Both sides in the case last April agreed that the matter should be referred back to the parole board for a final decision.

A spokesman for the board said: "It is not the policy of the board to comment on or confirm its decisions or reasons in individual cases such as this."

Meanwhile, Ms Murphy, 57, has won approval from the High Court in Dublin to commence a defamation action against slate.com, a website owned by The Washington Post. dsapstead@thenational.ae