Page last updated at 13:16 GMT, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Siddique released after terror conviction quashed

Siddique's solicitor Aamar Anwar said the case had destroyed the family's reputation

A man branded a "wannabe suicide bomber" by prosecutors will not face a retrial on terrorism charges.

Mohammed Atif Siddique, 24, a student from Alva, Clackmannanshire, was found guilty under terrorism laws in 2007.

But Appeal Court judges in Edinburgh said on 29 January he had suffered a "miscarriage of justice" on one of the charges and quashed the conviction.

The Crown Office has said it does not wish to seek a fresh prosecution. Siddique has now been released.

His family wept and hugged each other outside the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh, after Lord Osborne said judges would quash the main conviction.

Dominic Casciani, home affairs correspondent
Dominic Casciani,
Home affairs correspondent

The quashing of one of Mohammed Atif Siddique's terrorism convictions poses tough questions about Section 57 of the 2000 Terrorism Act - the offence of possessing "articles" for terrorist purposes.

The offence emerged from the lessons of Northern Ireland where detectives sometimes caught paramilitaries with DIY bomb parts - but no actual bomb or plot.

In the age of al-Qaeda inspired extremism, Section 57 has been used against suspects found with extremist material on their computers.

Two years ago the English Court of Appeal criticised the vague phraseology of the offence as it cleared five students in very similar circumstances to Mohammed Atif Siddique.

All these young men say they were criminalised for what they had thought, rather than what they did.

And Edinburgh and London's appeal judges say juries need to be given clearer guidance on when the line between thoughts and deeds is crossed.

In a statement read out by his solicitor Aamer Anwar on the court steps, Siddique said: "I have always maintained my innocence, but they took my liberty, destroyed my family's reputation and labelled me a terrorist.

"But I never had any bombs or plans to hurt anyone. In court it was said I was a wannabe suicide bomber, but I have always said I was simply looking for answers on the internet."

The shopkeeper's son was jailed for eight years in October 2007 after a four-week trial in Glasgow.

He was found guilty of two charges under the Terrorism Act 2000, one under the Terrorism Act 2006 and a breach of the peace.

The most serious charge related to the possession of articles that gave rise to "reasonable suspicion" they were connected to terrorism.

His conviction on that allegation resulted in a six-year prison term.

But at his appeal hearing in January Lord Osborne criticised the way the trial judge explained the main Terrorist Act charge to the jury.

The judge, sitting with Lords Reed and Clarke in Edinburgh, said the "material misdirection" amounted to "a miscarriage of justice".

In a statement, the Crown Office said Siddique remained convicted of serious terrorist offences.

The offences relate to the setting up of websites which provided links to documents on how to operate explosives and weapons, and to circulating terror publications via the web.

He is also still guilty of a breach of the peace for showing images of suicide bombers, murders and beheadings to fellow students.

The Crown Office added: "After careful consideration of the Appeal Court's judgment, the Crown has decided not to seek authority for a retrial.

"The fact that Mr Siddique has already served the majority of his sentence for charge one, and has de facto served his sentence in full for the other terrorist offences, of which he remains convicted, means that a retrial would have little practical effect.

"Accordingly, the Crown has concluded that a retrial would not be in the public interest."

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