Published Date: 30 January 2010
By John Robertson
THE man dubbed Scotland’s first Islamist terrorist had his conviction quashed yesterday after judges ruled he had suffered a miscarriage of justice.
But Mohammed Atif Siddique remained behind bars last night as prosecutors decided whether to put him on trial a second time for terrorist offences.
Siddique, 24, a former student who had threatened to become a suicide bomber in the heart of Glasgow, must wait two weeks to learn whether the Crown wants to try to prosecute him again.
He asked to be released after yesterday’s judgment at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh, but the judges said they would wait until the issue of a possible retrial had been settled.
Siddique’s parents, Mohammed and Parveen, appeared delighted as they left the court with their solicitor, Aamer Anwar, but declined to comment. Mr Anwar said there could be no statement until the case’s final outcome.
The appeal judges held that Lord Carloway, the judge at Siddique’s trial in Glasgow in 2007, had misdirected the jury on the elements that needed to be proved for a conviction under the 2000 Terrorism Act. They also faulted Lord Carloway’s directions on a statutory defence to the charge.
“In these circumstances, the appellant’s conviction on charge one in the indictment, in our judgment, amounts to a miscarriage of justice,” said Lord Osborne, sitting with Lords Reed and Clarke.
Siddique had also been found guilty of three other charges, but those were unaffected by the judgment. He had received a total of eight years’ imprisonment, six years for the main charge.
When the Crown is not to blame for a miscarriage of justice, it can seek authority from the appeal court for a fresh prosecution. In Siddique’s case, the Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini, QC, was given until 9 February to study the judgment and decide whether to ask for a retrial. But even if she were to make the request, it would still be open to the court to refuse it.
Siddique, of Alva, Clackmannanshire, was a student of Glasgow’s Metropolitan College when he was arrested in April 2006 at Glasgow airport, waiting for a flight to Pakistan. Police found al-Qaeda material on his laptop and at his home. At his trial, his defence was that he had accessed terrorist websites out of curiosity.
However, the jury convicted him of the main charge, of possessing articles in circumstances which gave rise to a reasonable suspicion of a connection with terrorism.
He was found guilty of a breach of the peace by showing fellow students images of terrorists murdering and beheading victims, and by threatening to become a suicide bomber in Glasgow.
A third charge involved setting up websites which contained links to documents providing instructions on how to operate weapons and to make bombs.
A fourth charge was of distributing terrorist publications through the websites.
Earlier, Siddique had been granted leave to appeal in respect of the first and fourth charges. The appeal against the fourth charge was dismissed yesterday.
On the first charge, Lord Osborne said that, in any criminal trial, the jury had to be given directions on the definition and meaning of any crime in the indictment and on the elements that had to be proved by the prosecution.
Guidance had been issued by the House of Lords, but that guidance had not been available to Lord Carloway.
“While it is evident that, at the very outset of his consideration of the offence … the trial judge followed the statutory language of section 57(1), almost immediately he then departed from the use of that language and … treated the offence as if section 57(1) contained no reference to ‘circumstances which give rise to a reasonable suspicion’. We consider that that amounted to a material misdirection,” said Lord Osborne.
He added: “In our view, the giving to the jury of the directions to be found in the charge relating to these matters amounted not only to a misdirection, but also to a miscarriage of justice.”
THE APPEALED CHARGES
CHARGE 1: The main indictment, under section 57(1) of the Terrorism Act 2000, of possessing articles in circumstances which gave rise to a reasonable suspicion that his possession was for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism. APPEAL UPHELD: “In our judgment … a miscarriage of justice,” say Lords Osborne, Reed and Clarke.
CHARGE 2: He was found guilty of a breach of the peace by showing fellow students images of terrorists murdering and beheading victims, and by threatening to become a suicide bomber in Glasgow. DENIED PERMISSION TO APPEAL.
CHARGE 3: Involved setting up websites that contained links to documents providing instructions how to operate weapons and make bombs. DENIED PERMISSION TO APPEAL.
CHARGE 4: Distributing terrorist publications through the websites. APPEAL DISMISSED.
29 January 2010 11:41 PM
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