'Wannabe suicide bomber' faces 15 years in prison

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The Independent Online

A British student is facing up to 15 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of possessing CDs and videos banned under anti-terrorism laws.

Mohammed Atif Siddique, 21, from Alva in Clackmannanshire, was also convicted of collecting terrorist-related information, setting up websites showing how to make and use weapons and explosives, and circulating inflammatory terrorist publications. The jury took nine hours to return guilty verdicts at the High Court in Glasgow yesterday. Afterwards, the judge asked to see risk-assessment reports on the defendant before passing sentence.

Lord Carloway told Siddique, whose parents run a general store in the small town of Alva: "You have been convicted of significant contraventions of the terrorism Acts. In particular, having in your possession articles connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism."

Siddique, who sat motionless in court, had denied possessing terror-related items and collecting information of a terrorist nature. His defence had been that the material he had collected was for research purposes.

Outside court, his lawyer, Aamer Anwar, said his client, a student at Glasgow Metropolitan College, was guilty of doing what millions of young people do every day – "looking for answers on the internet". He said the verdict was a "tragedy for justice and freedom of speech and undermines the values that separate us from the terrorists".

Siddique is now considering an appeal. Mr Anwar added: "Siddique states that he is not a terrorist, is innocent of the charges and it is not a crime to be a young Muslim angry at global injustice. In the end, Siddique did not receive a fair trial."

Maureen Brown, Assistant Chief Constable of Central Scotland, said the conviction concluded one of the most challenging investigations ever conducted by the force. She said: "Mohammed Atif Siddique has been convicted of serious terrorism offences and I wish to make absolutely clear that this investigation has only ever been about one thing – criminality. It was not about communities or a particular faith. What this case has demonstrated is that we will not tolerate terrorism."

During the three-and-a-half week trial, the prosecutor, Brian McConnachie, told the court that Siddique had been under surveillance by the police and security services. The jury was also told he was a "wannabe suicide bomber". Siddique's laptop had an al-Qa'ida recruiting video urging Muslim men to become suicide bombers. He also set up a website that had links on how to be a terrorist, including bomb-making advice and how to strip weapons.

His QC, Donald Findlay, argued that such material could easily be obtained by anyone on the internet.

Siddique will be sentenced on 23 October.

Living next door to a terrorist

* When neighbours were woken by police battering their way into the respected Siddique family home in Clackmannanshire, near Stirling on 13 April last year, it was the first inkling they had of living next door to an aspiring al-Qa'ida terrorist.

Mohammed Atif Siddique was well known in the area as a quiet, unimposing, polite boy who liked to help out in the nearby family shop. There was nothing apparently out of the ordinary in the 21-year-old's strong interest in IT, or his entry onto a computing technician's course at the Central College of Commerce in Glasgow. But Siddique had a secret: that he had been setting up web sites promoting terrorist activity, and was in possession of CDs glorifying Islamic suicide bombers. The prosecutor in the case said of the material: "There is a constant theme and that is Mohammed Atif Siddique wanted to become a suicide bomber."