Monday, March 08, 2010 

Ricin you say? Oh, he's white, we're not interested.

Remember the "ricin plot" where there was no ricin, where the recipe which Kamel Bourgass had could not have produced ricin and where his plan, to smear it on doorknobs and car door handles wouldn't have killed anyone as the poison needs to be either injected, ingested or inhaled to work? It was the first real "terror plot" post-9/11 in this country, came two months before the invasion of Iraq (in the context of which it was used by Colin Powell during his now notorious presentation to the UN), and the press coverage was massive in both response and in its hyperbole, the government doing its best to help it along by not bothering to inform anyone until Bourgass' trial was over that there had been no ricin after all.

You would then expect a case where ricin actually was found to provoke a similar media response. After all, while ricin is not the most deadly of potential "biological/chemical" warfare poisons, it is still usually deadly when used "properly", as in the assassination of Georgi Markov, a cold war precursor to the murder of Alexander Litvinenko.

It's strange then that almost no coverage whatsoever has been given to the case of Ian Davison, although perhaps that name itself somewhat gives the game away. Unlike Bourgass, Davison actually produced ricin, which was found in a jam jar in a cupboard in his kitchen. He today pleaded guilty to producing a chemical weapon, possessing the usual array of explosives manuals, including the Anarchist's Handbook and the Mudgahein's (sic) Explosives Handbook and preparing for acts of terrorism. It seems, if indeed you needed telling, that Davison is the latest in a string of extreme right-wingers to be brought before the courts on explosive or terrorist charges, although little seems to be known in this instance about what groups, if any Davison was associated with, with the police only hinting when he was arrested that it could be related to "a worldwide terror plot targeting ethnic minorities", something which we should probably take with a pinch of salt. Davison's son is also to face charges of "possessing material containing information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing acts of terrorism", after which he'll be sentenced.

Our old friend Kamel Bourgass was sentenced to a quite incredible 17 years for his impossible and implausible plot to kill using the ricin which he didn't have, on top of the life imprisonment he received for murdering PC Stephen Oake. One wonders what sentence will be passed on Davison, considering he actually had ricin in his possession, even if he didn't have the flawed plan which Bourgass has. The Met's then head of anti-terrorism Peter Clarke claimed after Bourgass' conviction, with a straight face, that a "real and deadly threat" had been averted. If it had then, one wonders in what terms a police chief with a similar agenda and a sense for exaggeration would describe Davison's conviction.

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Friday, January 15, 2010 

Hurrah for the Blackshirts!

Via Next Left, it's 76 years to the day since the Mail declared its support for those ahead of their time left-wingers known as the British Union of Fascists. By coincidence, the latest far-right nutjob to be found in possession of "improvised explosive devices", joining the ranks over the last few years of Neil Lewington, Robert Cottage and Martyn Gilleard was today convicted and sentenced to 11 years.

Unlike the others, whom were either connected to different far-right groups or whose membership to the British National Party had lapsed, Terence Gavan was a fully paid up member of the party, as the last leaked membership list makes clear (XLSB), a Mr Gavan appearing on the list from West Yorkshire with the postcode WF17 7HQ, which covers Healey Lane in Batley. Indeed, Gavan wasn't just a normal member but rather a "Gold" member, having opted to pay the £60 fee in return for his spangly yellow party badge. Still, the BNP, despite being unwilling to admit that Gavan was what they call an "elite" member, with the news being strangely absent from their current home page, admitted that the charges against him were "serious" and that the sentence passed "correct". Whether the members themselves agree is another matter.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009 

The neo-Nazi "threat".

What are we to make then of Neil Lewington, the latest in a string of neo-Nazis to be convicted of terrorism offences? There is one constant between Robert Cottage, Martyn Gilleard and Lewington, which is either reassuring or worrying, depending on your view: despite their world view, whether it be imminent race war, or the intention to try to start one, all were only interested in "small" explosive devices. Gilleard had film canisters with nails wrapped around them, intended to be used like grenades; Lewington went instead for tennis balls which he "converted" into shrapnel bombs. Neither was suddenly going to become the next David Copeland, although it appears that Copeland was someone that Lewington admired, along with the Unabomber and Timothy McVeigh, the latter being the most "successful" of the three.

Lewington was arrested, somewhat fortuitously on his way to meet the latest woman he had contacted either over chat lines or the internet, having verbally abused a train conductor and then urinated on the platform at Lowestoft station. In his bag were two of his converted tennis balls, which were deemed "viable" explosive devices. Whether he was actually intending to attack somewhere with them is unclear; other female witnesses said that he had boasted to them of making such devices. He might just have been taking them along on his date to show them off, and his refusal to answer any questions has not shone any light on anything in the case at all.

While much about him is shrouded in mystery, what does seem clear is that he was the archetypal loner, a social failure, an alcoholic, who probably blamed everyone other than himself, especially the "non-British", while he fulminated in his room, still living with his parents at 42, although he apparently hadn't spoken to his father in 10 years. Unlike Islamic extremists, where the internet has been key, both in providing them with information for bomb-making and the kind of social encouragement and moral support which leads to them putting thoughts and prejudices into action, Lewington doesn't appear to have had a computer at home, although he may have had a laptop at some point, and must have used the internet elsewhere to meet some of the women who gave evidence against him. Indeed, he also doesn't seem to have been an actual member of any far-right or neo-Nazi organisations (there appears to be confusion over whether he belonged to the National Front), although he had some material from the Blood and Honour grouping, which mixes music with white nationalism. The other main find was the "Waffen SS UK Members Handbook", which doesn't seem to be recognised by anyone with any expertise on neo-Nazis, and may well have been of Lewington's own creation, even if the material within bore resemblance to some of the manuals distributed by the likes of Combat 18.

Most puzzlingly of all, it doesn't even seem that his defence bothered to put much of one up. They called no witnesses, produced no material, and Lewington himself didn't give evidence. David Etherington QC seems to have simply depended on the "lonely, pathetic fantasist" angle, which might well have washed prior to Copeland and prior to 9/11 and 7/7, but not now. It makes you wonder whether perhaps this was to protect others that Lewington was associated with, yet there was little to no evidence that he was connected with anyone. Again, this depends on perspective: are the loners the most dangerous, or is it those who have connections with formed organisations that provide the crucial confirmation that their views aren't lonely or strange?

Whatever the case, and however serious Lewington was, few are going to quibble with the custodial sentence he is undoubtedly facing. More worrying is that, as pointed out, this is only the latest in a series of such prosecutions. While mainland Europe in the past had problems mostly with left-wing terrorism, something that we avoided, having our fill provided by the IRA, we now seem to face twin threats from jihadists, and although they are diametric opposites in ideological terms but actually have much in common when it comes down to it, race war baiting neo-Nazis. In essence, they want the same thing but target the opposite communities: jihadists want Muslims in Western countries to face isolation, humiliation and suspicion to such an extent that they themselves become radicalised; neo-Nazis aim to get a response from those they target similar to that which triggered the race riots of 2001, fomenting the race war which they believe they will emerge triumphantly from. Both are deluded, both are dangerous, but we only focus on the former rather than the latter. That ought to change.

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