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Students win appeal against cyberjihad convictions

'Thought crime' verdict overturned

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Five British muslim students jailed for downloading extremist material from the internet were released today, after the Appeal Court ruled their convictions were unsafe.

The Lord Chief Justice said that although the evidence was clear that the five had accessed the jihadi websites and literature there was no proof of any terrorist intent, the BBC reports.

"Difficult questions of interpretation have been raised in this case by the attempt by the prosecution to use [anti-terrorism law] for a purpose for which it was not intended," he said.

"We do not consider that it was made plain to the jury [in the original trial]...that they possessed the extremist material for use in the future to incite the commission of terrorist acts. We doubt whether the evidence supported such a case."

Irfan Raja, 20, of Ilford, east London, and Awaab Iqbal, 20, Aitzaz Zafar, 21, Usman Malik, 22, and Akbar Butt, 21, of Bradford, all received sentences of between two and three years in a landmark trial last year.

In a statement today via his solicitor, Malik said: "As I said when I was arrested, I do not, have not and will not support terrorism in any form against innocent people.

"My prosecution was a test case under the 2000 Terrorism Act. Today's decision means no first year student can ever be prosecuted again under this Act for possessing extremist literature."

The original case was sparked when police were contacted by Raja's parents. The schoolboy had run away to Bradford to meet the other students, who he had met online, leaving a note to say he intended to fight abroad.

He returned home within days, but the investigation had already begun.

In the appeal, lawyers for the five successfully argued that the Terrorism Act 2000 is not intended to make reading propaganda a crime, but to stop terrorists planning attacks. They also said the students had no intention of encouraging terrorist acts.

The government has seven days to appeal against today's decision. ®

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