Scottish student convicted on terror charges

Guardian Unlimited

A 21-year-old student was convicted today of possessing CDs and computer material linked to Islamist terrorism, along with threatening to become a suicide bomber and other offences.

He faces a potential jail sentence of up to 15 years, the trial judge has warned.

Following the verdict, police said Mohammed Atif Siddique, from Alva, Clackmannanshire near Stirling in central Scotland, had been found guilty of "serious terrorism offences" that posed a genuine threat.

Siddique's lawyer said he would appeal, arguing the student's actions amounted to nothing worse than "what millions of young people do every day - looking for answers on the internet".

"This verdict is a tragedy for justice and for freedom of speech, and undermines the values that separate us from the terrorists, the very values we should be fighting to protect," Aamer Anwar said outside Glasgow high court.

The jury returned guilty verdicts on four charges, including one of possessing CDs and videos that could be used for terrorist purposes.

Siddique was also convicted on two charges of setting up websites with links to terrorist publications that showed how to use weapons and make bombs, and causing a breach of the peace at Glasgow Metropolitan college by threatening to become a suicide bomber and blow up Glasgow. He will be sentenced on October 23.

The trial judge, Lord Carloway, said the court must take the offences "extremely seriously" and warned Siddique he was considering an extended sentence, which would mean up to 15 years' jail followed by a term on licence.

During the four-week trial, the prosecutor, Brian McConnachie, called Siddique a "wannabe suicide bomber" who helped distribute material that amounted to "a call to arms for Muslims".

"It's clear from that material that the whole idea was to glorify martyrdom operations, which we call suicide bombings," Mr McConnachie said.

The jury heard that Siddique was stopped at Glasgow airport as he was about to fly to Pakistan and had his laptop seized.

Police examined his home computer and found he had set up websites with direct links to inflammatory publications featuring detailed information about survival techniques and guerrilla warfare - for example, the use of rocket launchers, and the making of bombs and booby traps.

A CD found under a carpet in his home included footage produced by the official al-Qaida media wing, said a US terror expert.

The trial heard how the 21-year-old showed fellow students videos of a beheading and a man who had blown himself up, and talked of his support for suicide bombers and how he wanted to become a "sacrifice to God".

Assistant Chief Constable Maureen Brown of Central Scotland police, who was in charge of the investigation, said the trial was nothing to do with Islam or an individual community and had "only ever been about one thing: criminality".

"This case and other recent events have shown that terrorism is not just an issue for the major cities in England," she said. "The threat is with us now, it's real and we should all take responsibility for helping to tackle it."

Mr Anwar, however, said young Muslims in the UK lived in "a climate of fear", calling some of the evidence against his client "farcical".

"When detained at Glasgow airport by Special Branch on April 6 2006, his laptop was confiscated and he was released," Mr Anwar said. "At liberty for seven days, he made no attempt to escape or to destroy his home computer - hardly the actions of al-Qaida."

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