By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
British court quashes conviction of students jailed for downloading terrorist material
Placeholder Image
    LONDON — A British court on Wednesday overturned the convictions of five students jailed for downloading information on bomb-making and terrorism from the Internet.
    The five men, who are between ages 20 and 22, walked free from court after three Court of Appeal judges ordered them released. The judges said evidence failed to support prosecutors’ case that the men planned to use the material ‘‘to incite the commission of terrorist acts.’’
    ‘‘I’m very happy, happy to be out. ... I won my freedom back,’’ said one of the men, Akbar Butt, 21.
    Bradford University students Butt, Awaab Iqbal, Aitzaz Zafar and Usman Ahmed Malik, together with London high school student Mohammed Irfan Raja, were sentenced in July to between two and three years for possessing articles for terrorist purposes.
    Prosecutors said police who searched the men’s computers found a U.S. military guide giving instructions on how to make explosive devices and a suicide bombing manual, as well as chatroom conversations that encouraged terrorism or martyrdom.
    The men denied the charges and insisted they were simply researching Islam.
    Sentencing Judge Peter Beaumont said the young men had been ‘‘intoxicated by the extremist nature of the material.’’
    The men were arrested after Raja, then 18, ran away from home in February 2006, leaving a note for his parents saying he was going to fight abroad. He returned home three days later, and his parents took him to the police.
    Raja said he was never serious and had written to the letter to frighten his parents because he was unhappy at home.
    Defense lawyers said the Court of Appeal ruling made it clear that possession of extremist materials was not a crime, and could have an impact on other cases.
    Zafar’s lawyer, Imran Khan, said his client was ecstatic.
    ‘‘He says it is surreal and he cannot see why he has spent the last two years in prison for looking at material which he had no intention of using for terrorism,’’ Khan said.
    ‘‘There will always be people out there with wrong intentions, but we must not criminalize people for simply looking at material, whether it is good or bad,’’ he added.

Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter