"Terrorism" appeal opens in Edinburgh

Press Release from SACC

A young Scot controversially convicted of terrorism will today, Tuesday 30 June, be beginning his appeal at Scotland's High Court of Judiciary in Edinburgh.

Mohammed Atif Siddique was convicted in September 2007 of "terrorism" offences connected to his use of the internet. He was sentenced to eight years in prison. The appeal is on the basis of misdirection, unbalanced charge, reasonable excuse and excessive sentence. The hearing is expected to take up to eight days.

Atif Siddique's conviction was at the time described by his solicitor, Aamer Anwar, as a "tragedy for justice and for freedom of speech." In an unprecedented move, Anwar was charged with contempt of court as a result of his comments. He was cleared of the charge at Edinburgh High Court on 1 July last year.

Civil liberties campaigners have expressed concern over the the Siddique case. Richard Haley, secretary of Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC), says;

"Atif Siddique's actions harmed no one. He isn't a terrorist. He shouldn't be in jail. His trial in the summer of 2007 - soon after the Glasgow airport attack - was a travesty of justice. His family have stood by him with grace and courage. He and they deserve, finally, to see some justice."

The Siddique appeal is likely to be a landmark in the way that courts and the police interpret Britain's terrorism laws. It follows a key judgement by the Appeal Court in London last year, when judges quashed the convictions of five young Muslim men jailed over extremist literature. Imran Khan, solicitor for one of the young men, said that "young Muslim men before this judgement could have been prosecuted simply for simply looking at any material on the basis that it might be connected in some way to terrorist purposes." He added that the 2000 Terrorism Act had been written in such wide terms that "effectively, anybody could have been caught in it" but prosecutors would now have to prove such material was intended for terrorist purposes.

Scottish Muslims will be following the case closely. Many feel that Siddique's prosecution and the draconian sentence handed out to him represent a deliberate attempt to intimidate a whole generation of Muslims. They will doubtless be contrasting this case with the case of Neil MacGregor, who threatened to bomb Glasgow Central Mosque and to behead one Muslim every week until every mosque in Scotland is shut down. He was brought before Glasgow Sheriff Court and pleaded guilty to racially aggravated breach of the peace. Sentencing was last Friday (26 June) deferred for the eight time.

Notes for Editors