London In a case that changed the face of air travel, three men charged with a plot to kill trans-Atlantic airline passengers with bombs in soda bottles admitted Monday they intended to cause explosions.
But the men appealed to the jury to believe their story: that they wanted to stage an elaborate publicity stunt at one of London's iconic sites to promote a film, rather than commit mass murder.
The men are charged with a plot to kill hundreds of passengers at the height of the summer vacation season. When police discovered the plot in August 2006, airports around the world immediately changed their security procedures.
As security guards examined every bag by hand, passengers dumped bottles of water, wine and perfume. Tents were erected in airport parking lots as passengers waited, sometimes for days, to board flights. Airports and airlines needed weeks to recover from the chaos.
Monday's change of plea on some of the charges comes as the case winds to a close, infuriating prosecutors who say the men simply wanted to sway jurors before deliberations on the main charge against them: conspiring to kill thousands of airline passengers on flights over the Atlantic Ocean or U.S. cities.
"This was no propaganda video, no documentary, no exercise or stunt - this was for real," prosecutor Peter Wright said. "Human beings ready, able and willing to commit carnage for the sake of Islam."
He told jurors the men the men were "almost ready to go" when they were arrested in raids in and around London.
The three - Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 27, Assad Sarwar, 28, and Tanvir Hussain, 27 - pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiring to set off explosions, but still say they are innocent of conspiracy to murder, a charge for which they are still being tried.
The three admitted they conspired to cause explosions, but deny intending to wreak havoc on passenger jets.