LONDON – A British judge on Monday sentenced the ringleader of a plot to bring down trans-Atlantic planes with liquid explosives to at least 40 years in jail and three fellow British Muslims to long prison sentences.
The sentences for the planned suicide bombings were among the longest ever handed out by a British court in a terrorism case.
Ringleader Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, was given a minimum sentence of 40 years for plotting the biggest terrorist attack since Sept. 11, 2001.
Assad Sarwar, 29, was ordered to serve at least 36 years in prison and Tanvir Hussain, 28, was sentenced at least 32 years.
A fourth man, Umar Islam, 31, was found guilty of conspiracy to murder and received a minimum of 22 years. Jurors were unable to decide in his case whether he intended to target aircraft in the plot.
The men had planned to smuggle explosives aboard the planes disguised as soft drinks and detonate them while flying. Prosecutors said they were likely just days away from mounting their suicide attacks when they were arrested in August 2006.
Their arrests led to travel chaos as hundreds of jetliners were grounded across Europe. Discovery of the plot also triggered long-term changes to airport security worldwide, including new restrictions on the amount of liquids and gels that passengers can take onto flights.
Judge Richard Henriques said the men were guilty of a "grave and wicked conspiracy" that would likely have succeeded if they had not been arrested.
"The intention was to perpetrate a terrorist outrage that would stand alongside the events of Sept. 11, 2001 in history," the judge said.