Nezar Hindawi

Nezar Hindawi

Nezar Nawwaf al-Mansur al-Hindawi (Arabic: نزار نواف منصور الهنداوي‎, born 1954) is a Jordanian who was found guilty of attempting to place a bomb on an El Al flight in Heathrow airport, London on April 17, 1986. Hindawi packed the bomb into the carry-on bag of his pregnant Irish fiancée, Anne Mary Murphy. The bomb was found by El Al security. The incident became known as the Hindawi Affair.



Hindawi was born in Baqura, Jordan, just south of the Sea of Gallilee. In 1979, after beginning a career as a journalist in Amman, he moved to London.

Attempted bombing

Hindawi went to Syria in 1985, where he was allegedly recruited by officials in Syrian Air Force Intelligence to carry out a bombing on an El Al airliner. Once he received the explosives in London, he gave them to his pregnant fiancée Anne Mary Murphy, who unknowingly took his bag. When she attempted to board her flight from Heathrow Airport to Tel Aviv, El Al security officials stopped her, and the police began a search for Hindawi. Hindawi surrendered to police the following day and was sentenced to 45 years imprisonment.

Murphy was not tried and later gave birth to their daughter.

Report of the case, by the Israel Security Agency [1]

The plan was to plant explosives in the belly of the plane; the explosives were to be transported by a duped and innocent passenger entirely unaware of their existence. El Al security agents at the London stop uncovered the explosives and prevented the terror attack. After the discovery of the explosives, local authorities took over and arrested the passenger; later also arresting the man who sent her, a Jordanian Arab named Nizar Hindawi.

The passenger, a 32 year old Irish woman named Anne-Marie Murphy, who was six months pregnant, arrived at the check-in desk some forty minutes before it closed. She was approached and questioned by the deputy security officer as part of routine passenger security checks.

No suspicious signs were revealed during her questioning. The passenger, who gave the impression of being a simple woman, responded in the negative when asked if she had been given anything to bring to Israel. During the questioning she was calm, and revealed no sign of nervousness. In the check of her baggage, suspicious signs came to light: a Commodore scientific calculator with an electric cable was found; the bag raised suspicion due to its unexpectedly heavy weight. The security officer’s examination of the bag revealed explosives concealed in the bottom of the bag, under a double panel. He called the police, and the passenger was arrested.

Examination of the bomb by the local police revealed a detonator in the Commodore calculator coated with plastic Simtex explosives, connected to an electronic timing device which was set to activate the major explosives cache hidden inside the bag. An examination of the timer mechanism, once it was disconnected from the explosives, revealed that the jet was intended to explode about two and a quarter hours after its takeoff for Israel, at a height of 39,000 feet, when it would have been airborne between Italy and Greece.

Hindawi’s Syrian connection, as explained by the Israel Security Agency [2]

Anne-Marie Murphy’s interrogation revealed that she had met a Jordanian named Nizar Hindawi about two years earlier. He presented himself as a journalist, and a relationship developed between the two. The relationship was on and off, given that Hindawi was not permanently resident in the UK. In April 1986, when they met again, he discovered that she was in advanced stages of pregnancy as a result of their relationship. He suggested that they marry, and spend their honeymoon in Israel. He gave her a sum of money for buying clothes, acquiring a passport, and purchasing a plane ticket to Israel. He further told her that as a Jordanian, he was unable to travel together with her, but would travel to Jordan and from there he would travel by land to Israel in order to meet her at Ben-Gurion International Airport.

On the night before her flight, Hindawi arrived at her house with a large bag and helped her to pack her belongings. During the drive to the airport, she noticed that he was fumbling in her bag: later on it was revealed that this was in order to connect a battery to the Commodore computer and to attach it to the bottom of the bag, close to the principal explosives cache.

The interrogation of the terrorist Hindawi as well as other individuals arrested in the case, revealed that the Syrians were behind the plan, through members of their embassy in London. Syrian air force intelligence men brought the bag, which was later equipped with explosives, from Syria to the UK, via Syrian Airlines. These Syrians also prepared an operational infrastructure in London, including a safe apartment used for briefings, preparation and escape following the attack. Hindawi’s interrogation revealed that he had been linked with the Syrian intelligence since the 80’s, as well as with two senior officers in the security administration of the Syrian air force.

In February 1986, one of the two, Haytham Sa’id, proposed to Hindawi that he plant a bomb in an El Al jet. Hindawi received detailed instructions from Sa’id regarding how to plant the bomb. Sa’id further advised Hindawi to use a woman to plant the bomb in the jet, explaining that a woman would arouse less suspicion. Hindawi was promised $250,000 for carrying out the mission.

Hindawi decided to make use of his girlfriend, Anne-Marie, to plant the bag in the El Al plane. He proposed to her on April 7, 1986, and suggested that they hold the wedding in Israel, as well as the honeymoon. On the 16th of April, Hindawi helped his girlfriend pack her bags, in the bag he brought her specially for this purpose. The next day, he accompanied her to the airport. On the way, he activated the explosive mechanism of the bomb.

Hindawi returned to his hotel after bidding farewell to Murphy, and waited for the Syrian Airlines crew car which would take him to the airport, where he would depart for Syria. When the car arrived, one of the crew members informed him that Anne-Marie Murphy had been arrested at the airport. He instructed Hindawi to hail a taxi and to go immediately to the Syrian embassy. The man gave Hindawi a sealed envelope, and instructed him to hand it to the Syrian ambassador personally.

When the ambassador read the missive, he instructed Hindawi to travel, with two Syrians, to the safe apartment in London. Hindawi was held in the apartment until the next morning, when the two Syrians again arrived to accompany him back to the embassy. Hindawi suspected that they were about to kill him. He fled and called his brother, who called the police. Hindawi was arrested. At the time of his arrest he was in possession of a Syrian passport.

The apartment in which Hindawi had been held was that of a guard in the Syrian embassy, and the Syrians guarding him were embassy guards. The three were expelled from the UK. A British police search of the apartment revealed Hindawi’s false documents as well as official Syrian embassy documents.

Upholding of parole board review

He became eligible for parole in April 2001, having served one third of his sentence. However, his application for his case to be reviewed by the parole board, on the basis that he no longer posed a risk due to changes in the political climate in Syria, was rejected by Home Secretary David Blunkett in 2003.

In January 2004, the High Court ruled that this amounted to discrimination on the grounds of nationality, in breach of article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, among other arguments, and gave Hindawi leave to appeal.

The relevant legislation said:

After a long-term prisoner has served one half of his sentence, the Secretary of State may, if recommended to do so by the [Parole] Board, release him on licence.
In relation to a long-term prisoner who is liable to removal from the United Kingdom, [the above] shall have effect as if the words "if recommended to do so by the [Parole] Board" were omitted.

Hindawi claimed this amounts to unlawful discrimination on the grounds of nationality, something forbidden by Article 14 of the ECHR (requiring the rights and freedoms under the Convention to be "secured without discrimination on any grounds such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth, or other status.").

Had he not been liable to deportation, his case would have gone to the Parole Board. Because he was liable to deportation, it didn't go before the Board - Blunkett decided for himself. The judge concluded that this was discrimination under ECHR and he had heard no argument justifying this discrimination.

His further argument was that the law allowed the Home Secretary to get a recommendation from the Parole Board and therefore, to apply the law in conformance with ECHR, he should have done so and followed their recommendation. The judge agreed. The law was no different in principle to one that said "no parole for Frenchmen" and that would be a clear breach of ECHR 14.

[2004] EWHC 78 (Admin)

The Home Office appealed against this decision. The Court of Appeal examined the question of whether ECHR 14 could be invoked at all. To do so, the case must involve another right in the ECHR - in this case, the high court judge concluded that the right to liberty except by due process of law (Article 5) was involved sufficiently to allow Article 14 to come into play. The Court of Appeal disagreed (but 2:1, not 3:0) and therefore allowed the appeal. They also took the view that the different release schemes were justified because of the different circumstances (deportation v parole in the community).

[2004] EWCA Civ 1309

The case then went to the House of Lords. They decided unanimously that, once a parole or early release scheme existed, it became part of the right to liberty and so Article 5 was engaged, allowing a claim under Article 14. They also rejected the view that the different schemes were justified.

Therefore, at the end of the day, Hindawi is entitled to have the Parole Board decide his case.

[2006] UKHL 54, SESSION 2006-07


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