Friday, February 18, 2011

(NEWS 24, AP) Terror accused 'driven by Zim situation'

Terror accused 'driven by Zim situation'
2011-02-14 14:31

Johannesburg - A South African businessman accused of threatening to unleash biological weapons on Britain and the United States may have been driven by concern over the plight of white farmers in neighbouring Zimbabwe, a spokesperson for the prosecution said on Monday.

The suspect, Brian Roach, did not have the means to carry out his threats to spread foot-and-mouth disease, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said.

Roach, 64, who owns an engineering firm outside Johannesburg, appeared in court on Monday after his arrest on terror charges on Saturday. The case was postponed until Friday for a bail hearing.

Roach threatened in letters and e-mails sent to the British government to spread the disease in Britain and the United States unless he was given $4m.

Plight of white Zimbabwean farmers

"We have the expertise and resources to do this very effectively and will be able to devastate the industry in the UK which will cost billions to the economy," Roach wrote in an e-mail to the British government. "We will devastate your farms and then we will then take the problem to your co-conspirator the USA."

Roach appeared to believe the US and Britain should do more to help white Zimbabwean farmers, Mhaga said.

About 4 000 white farmers have been forced from their farms since 2000 a campaign to put more land in the hands of impoverished blacks.

Roach said he wanted compensation for losses incurred by Zimbabweans because of the US, which he said influenced the situation in Zimbabwe with only its "own interest at heart".

On October 6, Roach wrote in an e-mail: "We are not habitual criminals but have been victim of a situation which was entirely out of our control and attributed to corrupt and incompetent politicians."

Violence in Zimbabwe has surged since January, when Mugabe called for elections later this year to bring Zimbabwe's troubled coalition to an end. The power-sharing government - a joint coalition of Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, the formal opposition leader - took office February 11, 2009 after disputed elections plagued by violence and allegations of vote rigging in 2008.

Police said a six-month terror investigation by South African, British and US officials culminated with Roach's arrest. US and British officials confirmed they had worked closely with the South Africans.

'Very serious threat'

"This biological agent, if deployed, would have caused the destruction of property and resulted in major economic loss," a police statement said. "This was therefore regarded as a very serious threat."

Police charged Roach with terrorist activity and money laundering. The grey-haired man, married with four grown children, appeared briefly in court on Monday, wearing glasses and a black fleece jacket.

Police said Roach made the threats repeatedly in letters and e-mails sent from internet cafes.

Police searched Roach's home and other sites, but found no evidence he would have been capable of carrying out his threats.

- AP

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