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UK court releases five terror suspects

A court in London quashed the conviction of five Muslim youths jailed for merely downloading extremist propaganda on their computers.

world Updated: Feb 14, 2008 22:38 IST

In a body blow to Britain's anti-terrorism law, an appeal court in London quashed the conviction of five Muslim youths jailed for merely downloading extremist propaganda on their computers.

The ruling by the Court of Appeal means that in future the prosecution will have to prove that defendants intended to commit terrorist attacks.

The men, four university students and a schoolboy, who ran away from home saying that he wanted to die fighting jihad, are the first to be convicted for Islamist terrorism overturned since the War on Terror began in 2001.

The three judges led by Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, ordered on Wednesday that Irfan Raja, 20, Awaab Iqbal, 20, Aitzaz Zafar, 21, Usman Malik, 22 and Akbar Butt, 21 be released immediately.

Three hours after the judgment was handed down the five men walked out the front door of the court.

The ruling dealt a severe blow to the body of anti-terrorism legislation in the country by rewriting two key sections of the Terrorism Act 2000.

Sections 57 and 58 - which outlawed the possession of items likely to be of use or connected to terrorism - have been used by police and prosecutors to spearhead the fight against the radicalisation and recruitment of Muslims youths.

Under the Terrorism Act 2000, "a person commits an offence if he possesses an article in circumstances which give rise to a reasonable suspicion that his possession is for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism".

The police regard the sections as a means of intervening early to prevent potential recruits going overseas to wage jihad or to receive terror train.