Anger lingers after London bombings

Stephen Beard Jul 7, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: New Yorkers woke up to a frightening headline in the Daily News this morning. The paper said terrorists were caught in a plan to blow up the Holland Tunnel under the Hudson River. The details were wrong, but close. Not the Holland Tunnel but commuter trains. Mark Mershon is the assistant director of the FBI’s office in New York.

MARK MERSHON: We’re here today to discuss what we believe is the real deal. For most of the year, we have been focusing on a group of Al-Qaeda followers who have targeted the Hudson River tubes that connect New Jersey with lower Manhattan.

Real deal, he said. Scary words. Especially today. One year after suicide bombers blew up three subway trains and a bus in London. Fifty-six people, including the bombers, died. More than 700 were injured. There were ceremonies and services around the UK today. But, Stephen Beard reports from the European Desk in London, there’s not much sympathy for the British government.

STEPHEN BEARD: In Parliament Square, Big Ben signalled the start of a nationwide commemoration. Much of the country fell silent for two minutes. The Prime Minister said Britain was united in mourning. Nevertheless, some of the 7/7 survivors and the bereaved feel bitter about the way Britain has treated them.

NADER MOZZAKA: This is a matter of principle. We think that a free and democratic government in the fifth- or fourth-biggest economy in the world is not looking after their citizens. And that is a matter of principle for almost every family that I talked to.

Fifty-year old Nader Mozzaka lost his wife in the Tube bombings. Like many of those bereaved or injured a year ago, he feels aggrieved about compnesation. He was paid just $10,000 out of the government’s criminial injury compensation scheme:

MOZZAKA: That is an insult to my wife’s name. My wife was a scientist contributing to society for absolutely years and $10,000 is just . . . I can’t accept. I can’t understand.

Nader says some of those severely disabled in the explosions are worse off. They have received more money than him from the government fund but the sums are still woefully inadequate:

MOZAKKA: There are people who lost limbs and eyes and spleens. And the maximum amount that people have been offered is $200,000, which is not even enough to convert a house for somebody who’s lost everything.

[Tape from 9/11]

Comparisons with the aftermath of 9/11 are telling. From the fund set up by Congress the average award for bereavement was around $2 million. Here in Britain after 7/7 the equivalent figure was just $30,000. The British awards are fairly pitiful, says London lawyer Elizabeth Wilde.

ELIZABETH WILDE: Here these people are who were innocently going about their daily business on that day and they’ve — will receive — very small amounts of compensation.

She’s working pro bono for some of the 7/7 survivors. The problem she says is that the UK criminal compensation scheme is antiquated. It doesn’t take terrorist attacks into account. It doesn’t compensate properly for psychological damage. It doesn’t compensate properly at all:

WILDE: Particularly for those who’ve been bereaved to get a figure of around $20,000, is a very small amount.

Earlier this week, with today’s anniversary approaching and with criticism mounting, government minister Jerry Sutcliffe made a statement in Parliament on the 7/7 compensation:

JERRY SUTCLIFFE: Now we know that the scheme in its current guise isn’t perfect. That’s why we undertook a public consultation this year with proposals for refocusing the scheme to increase levels of compensation for those most seriously injured.

Nader Mozakka is hoping the bereaved will also get increased compensation. Quite apart from the emotional loss, he says, the loss of his wife’s income has left him much worse off financially. The state has a responsibility, he says:

MOZAKKA: At least in the mind of the people who murdered my wife, they were doing a political point. My wife was a total, innocent person. And for that reason only we need to be compensated.

The national mourning continued at commemorative events in central London in the evening. Many of the survivors and bereaved seem genuinely gratified by the tributes. But many too would prefer, in the days ahead, more practical help, more financial assistance.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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