NABEEL Hussain, the Horley man cleared of taking part in the foiled fertiliser bomb plot, said he should never have "suffered the indignity" of being labelled a terrorist.

The 22-year-old politics student was found not guilty of conspiring to cause explosions likely to endanger life at the Old Bailey on Monday.

He was acquitted along with Shujah Mahmood, from Crawley. Five other men received life sentences.

Mr Hussain stood alongside his solicitor, Imran Khan, outside the court as he read a statement on behalf of his client. He said: "For three years I have had to cope with the possibility that I may face the rest of my life in prison.

"Had I been convicted, both my family and I would have been destroyed. This is not just a relief for me but also for my friends and family.

"I have always maintained my innocence. I have never been an extremist or believed in extremism.

"At the time of my arrest, I was just a young man who had everything to look forward to. I have lost those last three years and will never get them back.

"In my view, it must have never come this far so I should never have suffered the indignity of prison and of being labelled a terrorist."

Mr Hussain was one of seven people arrested after half a ton of fertiliser was discovered in a storage depot in West London. He was the only defendant to be released on bail.

At the time of the plot Mr Hussain was 18 and studying international politics at Brunel University. He grew up in Horley and worked in a chemist shop at weekends.

Mr Hussain was introduced to the group's ringleader, Omar Kyam, by his stepfather's nephew, Jawad Akbar. He told the court he was duped into giving his bank card for Khyam to pay for the storage of a bag of sand to be used for renovations.

He was told the money would be paid back within a month but never checked his account until his student loan ran out. Four months later he discovered the bag contained fertiliser and became suspicious when a fellow university student told him it could be used for explosives.

The court heard how the convicted men had planned to bomb Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, the Ministry of Sound nightclub in London and the domestic gas network.

Omar Kyam, Waheed Mahmood and Jawad Akbar, from Crawley, Anthony Garcia, from East London, and Salahuddin Amin, from Luton, were found guilty of conspiring to cause explosions likely to endanger life between January 1, 2003, and March 31, 2004. The jury of seven men and five women took more than six weeks to reach a verdict.

The judge, Sir Michael Astill, told the convicted men: "You have betrayed this country that has given you every opportunity. All of you may never be released. It is not a foregone conclusion."

At the end of the year-long £50 million trial it was revealed that Omar Khyam was a close associate of Mohammed Sidique Khan, the ringleader of the London 7/7 bombings, and had met another of the July 7 bombers, Shehzad Tanweer.

Police and MI5 investigating Khyam dismissed Khan and Tanweer as peripheral figures but within 16 months they led a series of suicide bombings in the capital, killing 52 people.

Survivors and relatives of victims of the 7 July attacks are stepping up the pressure for a public inquiry into MI5's handling of intelligence.

Home Secretary John Reid has rejected the need for an inquiry and said it would divert too many MI5 officers from the job of foiling other terrorist plots.

But he has asked the Intelligence and Security Committee to consider why the 7 July bombers were not picked up.

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