Heavy sentence for asylum seeker from Iran
found guilty of explosives and harassment offences

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Helen Gavaghan, Crown Court at Bradford (UK), 12 June 2018

Ashkan Ebrahimi (now 34), a resident of Halifax in the UK, was today found guilty of and given a 20-year extended sentence for having explosive substances with intent to endanger life or property. Concurrently, said Judge David Hatton QC, Mr Ebrahimi must serve 12 months for having an offensive weapon, namely a police baton; 6 months for having a bladed weapon in a public place; and three years for each of three stalking charges, involving fear of serious alarm or distress. His honour was working with new terrorism sentencing guidelines, drawing on guidance for when ideology does not play a significant part.

Mr Ebrahimi is an asylum seeker from Iran. He came to the UK in 2009, said the judge to the jury. Working from the dock, Mr Ebrahimi defended himself. Though he denied having had the police baton in his car (a public place) he told the judge other items listed and read out in Court had been in his house. His collection of knives, cross bows, machette and air pistols/rifle were not held illegally.

Items capable of making explosives of various kinds, and listed on the indictment, include: sulpher, potassium nitrate, potassium chloride, iron oxide, baking powder, acetone, drain cleaner (which was mainly sulphuric acid), nitric acid (69 percent), aluminium powder, magnesium powder, sodium hypochlorite, glycerine, caustic soda, sulphuric acid and ball bearings.

Mrs Alison Mansfield, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and an expert in the chemistry of explosives, told the Court the items she tested could have made: 2.7 kilograms of gunpowder and 0.6 litres of nitroglycerine. Mrs Mansfield said to the jury that in her calculations she used commercial figures and those from the literature.

Additional items related to chemistry in practise were reported in evidence to the Court as having been siezed by police.

Though Mr Ebrahimi did not give evidence on oath, and so did not have his evidence tested in cross examination, he made reference more than once to having been tortured, seemingly in connection with a book he said he had written.

In his evidence Detective Constable Jon Garrod, from the Homicide and Major Crimes Unit of West Yorkshire Police, was asked by the prosecution about Mr Ebrahimi and the Iranian Special Forces. DC Garrod told the jury that that was something Mr Ebrahimi said about himself. In interviews read to the Court the police asked Mr Ebrahimi if he was trained in using knives, and he said "no".

In other evidence to the Court it was stated Mr Ebrahimi had a list of the UK's internationally assigned frequencies, a frequency jammer, and literature downloaded from the internet which falls foul of terrorism legislation.

During the trial Mr Ebrahimi told the jury that he speaks five languages. When asked by the judge if he understood that he had a choice of giving evidence from the witness box in his own defence, and being cross examined by the prosecution, or making a closing speech as his own advocate on the basis of evidence before the Court Mr Ebrahimi said he did understand his choice. His speech to the jury was not interrupted by the judge.

Earlier during the trial Mr Ebrahimi had told the former police officers he was today found guilty of having stalked and harrassed that he had not intended them harm. From the dock Mr Ebrahimi asked a number of questions of witnesses, and those questions were not always immediately clear as to meaning. In police interviews played to the Court Mr Ebrahimi spoke of a sense he was being watched, and when asked by police if he had ever spoken with a doctor about some of the things which he had told them he said "no". Asked in interview by the police if in his mind he had imagined hurting people Mr Ebrahimi said, "no".

When he came to the sentencing his honour said, "Your intention I have not the slightest doubt was a device to use against police, a district judge of this Court, solicitors and a social worker. You went to considerable lengths to find out about people, visited the street in which one of those you researched lived. You've displayed signs of being paranoid and deluded. You are a dangerous individual in the meaning of the Criminal Justice Act of 2003. There is a risk to the public in general, but in particular to those openly researched by you. The danger is likely to persist for considerable time into the future such that an extended sentence is called for on Count One." His honour continued, "You will serve at least two thirds of 15 years in custody. There will then be referral to the parole board, and you will be released if the Parole Board says it is safe. When you are released, no later than in 15 years, you will be on license for a further five years."

His honour thanked Detective Constable Jon Garrod and six other police officers plus Mrs Alison Mansfield, the expert chemist in explosives who testified at the trial. A number of police officers, said Judge Hatton, had worked so intensively that it had impacted their health.

Published by Apple Bough LP (registered in England): a contemporaneous news report to be moved at the end of July 2018 to the "From British Courts" Section of Issue two (April - June), 2018 of Science, People & Politics. Reporting from within the Court Room by Helen Gavaghan. Posted 12.06.18 before 19.30.

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