London, Feb.14 : Britain's Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, has quashed the terrorism charges against five young Muslims on grounds that reading Islamist material was not illegal unless there was "direct" proof it was to be used to inspire violent extremism.
Raja, now 20, of Ilford, Awaab Iqbal, 20, of Bradford; Aitzaz Zafar, 21, of Rochdale, Lancashire; Usman Ahmed Malik, 22, of Bradford; and Akbar Butt, 21, of Southall, west London, were jailed in July 2006 after they were accused of having extreme material on their computers.
Jailing them for up to three years, the Recorder of London, Judge Peter Beaumont, had said they were preparing to train in Pakistan and then fight in Afghanistan against its allies, which included British soldiers.
All said the material was not intended to encourage terrorism or martyrdom. They denied having extremist views and some said they were researching ideology, including visiting websites about violent jihad.
They were prosecuted under Section 57 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which makes it an offence to have books or items useful for a terrorist. triking down the convictions, Lord Phillips said: "[Section 57] must be interpreted in a way that requires a direct connection between the object possessed and the act of terrorism."
He also directed the jury that the trial judge had not told jurors "that they had to be satisfied that each appellant intended to use the relevant articles to incite his fellow planners to fight in Afghanistan".
It is the first time the court of appeal has quashed guilty verdicts passed by a jury since the war on terror began in 2001, reports the Guardian.