Muslim student guilty of terror charges

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A BRITISH-BORN Muslim student was found guilty today of a series of Islamist terrorism offences.

Mohammed Atif Siddique, 21, from Alva, Clackmannanshire, provided training material on booby-trap-bomb-making and threatened to become a suicide bomber.

A jury at the High Court in Glasgow took more than eight hours to convict him of possessing and distributing a range of terrorist material via websites and providing instructional material about guns and explosives over the internet.

Siddique, who was found guilty of four charges, sat motionless and looked straight ahead as the guilty verdicts were returned.

Lord Carloway spoke briefly, reviewing the most serious charge, and said: "You have been convicted of significant contraventions of the Terrorism Act, in particular on charge one of having articles in your possession for the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.

"The court must take these offences extremely seriously.

"You have no criminal record so I cannot proceed to sentence today."

Sentencing will take place at the High Court in Edinburgh on October 23.

Siddique was branded a "wannabe suicide bomber" by advocate-depute Brian McConnachie QC.

Documents and footage linked to Siddique during the trial were described as "a call to arms for Muslims" by prosecutors.

"It's clear from that material that the whole idea was to glorify martyrdom operations which we call suicide bombings," he said.

The court heard the 21-year-old would log on to internet chat rooms using the pseudonym Ya Ya Ayash – a figure famous in the Hamas movement and responsible for a wave of bombings in the Middle East.

Siddique had denied three charges under the Terrorism Act 2000, one under the Terrorism Act 2006 and a breach of the peace charge.

He was accused of possessing and collecting items such as CDs and videos on weapons use, guerrilla tactics and bomb-making which could be used for terrorist purposes.

Siddique was also accused of setting up websites with links to terrorist publications which showed how to use weapons and make bombs, and distributing terrorist publications via links on a website.

He was further accused of causing a breach of the peace at Glasgow Metropolitan College by threatening to become a suicide bomber and blow up Glasgow, as well as showing images of suicide bombers and beheadings.

The offences were alleged to have been carried out between March 1, 2003 and April 13, 2006.

Siddique's solicitor Amar Anwar said later: "Today Mohammed Atif Siddique was found guilty of doing what millions of young people do every day, looking for answers on the internet.

"This verdict is a tragedy for justice and for freedom of speech. It undermines the values that separate us from the terrorist, the very values we should be fighting to protect.

"Mohammed Atif Siddique states that he is not a terrorist and is innocent of the charges and it is not a crime to be a young Muslim angry at global injustice.

"The prosecution was driven by the state and carried out in an atmosphere of hostility after the Glasgow Airport attack, and ending on the anniversary of 9/11. In the end, Atif Siddique did not receive a fair trial and I will be considering an appeal."

Siddique's family, who were sobbing in court, made no comment.

'MODEL PUPIL' WHO BECAME FIRST SCOTS-BORN ISLAMIC TERRORIST

Mohammed Atif Siddique grew from a "model pupil" into Scotland's first home-grown Islamic terrorist.

The 21-year-old was born in Stirling on November 10 1985 into a respected family of Pakistani migrants.

His father Mohammed Snr was running a newsagent shop in nearby Alva, Clackmannanshire.

The Siddique family was one of just a few Asian households in the area, and Mohammed was schooled locally along with his two brothers and sister.

Alva Academy's deputy headmaster Alexander Donoghue remembered him as quiet, polite and more or less a "model pupil".

"I would say he was above average in terms of attitude, always wore his uniform and very polite and courteous to staff," he told Siddique's trial.

Siddique began studying for a two-year HND in information and computer technology at Glasgow Metropolitan College in 2003. He also took courses in topics such as web design, computer systems and computer networks.

Tutors at the college said his performance and attendance was satisfactory in the first year but declined sharply in the next. One lecturer testified that he "just disappeared" for large parts of his second year.

This period coincided with him becoming more and more religious, and he clashed slightly with his family as he explored his identity as a Sunni Muslim.

The teenager also started to grow a beard, and began attending sessions at Glasgow Central Mosque to learn more about his faith.

His involvement included going off on a two-week religious trip in the summer of 2005 with colleagues from the mosque.

In November 2005 he secured a job at a call centre in Ibrox, Glasgow, and by the time he left in March last year he had been under covert surveillance by the security services for several months.

That operation culminated in his arrest during a dramatic raid on his family home in Alva on April 13 last year.

Siddique had been stopped by Special Branch officers at Glasgow Airport the week before, about to board a flight for Lahore in Pakistan with his uncle.

He was detained and questioned for around five hours at the airport, with officers quickly homing in on his laptop computer.

Although detectives found nothing more untoward than pictures of family celebrations, the computer was seized along with Siddique's passport and flight tickets.

Almost immediately e-crime experts were put to work analysing the laptop's hard drive.

Their findings sparked off one of Scotland's biggest terrorist inquiries.

The dramatic dawn raids saw Siddique arrested and his mother, father and three brothers had their wrists tied with cable during the initial examination of the property.

The search operation eventually lasted for three days, with officers recovering box-fulls of items including a home computer, mobile phone and scores of CDs, DVDs and floppy disks.

Siddique was taken to the high security Scottish Terrorist Detention Centre in Govan, Glasgow, where he was held for the next two weeks and interviewed 40 times.

Officers ensured his every religious need was catered for, providing a prayer mat and allowing time for Friday prayers.

A huge team of police officers and experts was then assembled to analyse and translate some of the thousands of documents and videos that were being downloaded and viewed.

Police chiefs at Central Scotland Police also launched a PR offensive to reassure the local community.

The force's 60 community beat officers were all briefed about what had happened and follow-up tactics, along with local authority officials, MSPs and MPs.

Scotland's "Guardian Group" of assistant chief constables from the country's eight forces was also convened, to examine the potential community impact of the arrest on a country-wide basis.

The investigation saw a house in Bridge of Allan, five miles from Alva, raided on April 24.

His brother Mohammed Asif Siddique and uncles Mohammed Rafiq and Mohammed Niaz were arrested the same day and also taken to Glasgow for questioning.

They were released without charge a few days later, angrily denouncing their treatment.

Officers had meanwhile started on the nuts and bolts of the investigation, printing off literally thousands of documents, watching scores of videos and tracking down former student colleagues, teachers and lecturers of Siddique.

A team of 12 Arabic, Pakistani and Urdu language translators was quickly put together to trawl through the pages of Eastern script.

Around 20 police officers alone at Govan were tasked to manage Siddique's detention, reviewing his situation every day and preparing the legal case for extending his custody in line with Terrorism Act 2000 powers.

The investigation team eventually grew to around 80 officers in all, with many of them in place until November last year when the Crown's case was finalised.

Senior offices said the massive amount of material seized ensured it one of the most complex police inquiries yet carried out in Scotland.

Around 6000 witness statements were taken, with 124 witnesses indicted to appear during the trial.

A total of 34 computers and hard disks were examined, from Siddique's former colleges, Ibrox Library and places of work, and 25 mobile telephones and 19 SIM cards were also analysed.

Altogether prosecutors prepared more than 1500 productions for the court proceedings.