THE security services feared Scotland's first home-grown "wannabe suicide bomber" had been preparing to carry out a terrorist attack in Canada, it emerged last night.
Mohammed Atif Siddique was stopped at Glasgow Airport before he could board a flight to Pakistan amid concerns that he might go "off the radar" and join alleged Islamic extremists in planning large-scale terrorist attacks in Ontario.
Siddique was found guilty yesterday of a string of terrorism offences at the High Court in Glasgow and now faces a jail sentence of up to 15 years.
During his trial, the defence and prosecution had argued over whether the 21-year-old IT student was actively involved in promoting terrorist attacks or was merely a "foolishly stupid young man" simply researching Islamic terrorism.
After the verdict, Siddique's solicitor, Aamer Anwar, accused the authorities of launching an unwarranted attack on civil liberties and of creating a climate of fear for young Muslims.
He said the Canadian accusations - which were not presented in court - were an attempt to smear his client.
Flanked by members of Siddique's family, who run a shop in Alva, Clackmannanshire, Mr Anwar said: "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 and undermines the values that separate us from the terrorists, the very values we should be fighting to protect. The prosecution was driven by the state, with no limit to the money and resources used to secure a conviction in this case, 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 we will be considering an appeal."
But Maureen Brown, assistant chief constable of Central Scotland Police, who was in charge of the investigation, said the verdicts had sent out a clear message to people in Scotland who may support the al-Qaeda cause. She said the case demonstrated that "we will not tolerate terrorism in any form, including the possession of materials which would be useful to someone wanting to commit an act of terrorism or to induce or encourage someone to take such a course of action".
Siddique was detained at Glasgow Airport on 5 April last year, as he prepared to fly out to Pakistan with his uncle.
Sources close to the investigation said it was believed he might have been preparing to become involved in a terrorist attack in Canada.
It is thought Siddique had been radicalised by a man from the north of England who was being monitored by the Secret Service and was having online chats with him. The man, who for legal reasons cannot be named, is suspected of being a major recruiting agent and handler for al-Qaeda, and is related to a central figure in an alleged Canadian suicide-bomb team.
It is claimed their mission included detonating lorry bombs, slaughtering shoppers and storming the Canadian Broadcast Centre and parliament building. They allegedly planned to behead Stephen Harper, the prime minister.
Twelve men and five teenage boys are in custody in connection with the alleged attacks.
Sources also claim Siddique had discussions with someone in Canada over the possibility of setting up terrorist training camps along the US border. A source close to the investigation said: "The security services got intelligence that Siddique was about to leave Glasgow Airport for Pakistan, where he would completely go off the radar. Special Branch were asked to detain him without delay."
However, a spokesman for Central Scotland Police said there was "no evidence that Siddique was involved in an actual terrorist plot".
And one source said the Canadian connections were "intelligence" rather than evidence.
Mr Anwar said:
"This smacks of security services running around under the cloak of secrecy releasing titbits of information to the press when not one scrap of evidence was ever produced in court to support this. They are trying to turn my client into someone he isn't. He was a young boy who, at worst, had an unhealthy interest."
When Siddique's laptop was seized at Glasgow Airport, experts uncovered hidden extremist material. Eight days later, police swooped in a dawn raid on Siddique's family home, seizing hundreds of documents and the family computer. A computer disc found under a carpet contained horrific images, including Islamic extremists looting the body of a dead US serviceman.
Siddique's laptop had an al-Qaeda recruiting video urging young Muslim men to become suicide bombers.
The jury at the High Court in Glasgow took nearly nine hours to convict Siddique of possessing and distributing a range of Islamist terrorist material via websites and providing instructions about guns and explosives over the internet.
Siddique had denied three charges under the Terrorism Act 2000, one under the Terrorism Act 2006 and a breach of the peace by threatening to become a suicide bomber and blow up Glasgow, as well as showing images of suicide bombers and beheadings.
The offences were allegedly carried out between 1 March, 2003, and 13 April, 2006.
He sat motionless and looked straight ahead as the guilty verdicts were returned.
He was found guilty on a majority verdict of the most serious charge: possessing CDs and videos that gave rise to a suspicion he had them for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of a terrorist act.
He was also found guilty by a majority verdict of the breach of the peace charge.
He was unanimously found guilty of the remaining two charges 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.
The judge, Lord Carloway,
warned Siddique he was considering an extended sentence, which would mean a prison term, followed by a period on licence.
Osama Saeed, Scottish spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, stressed there had been no evidence Siddique had been involved in a real terrorist plot. He added: "Muslims will undoubtedly continue to care deeply about what happens abroad and it's vital that this feeling is represented and articulated through our democratic channels."
Gordon Banks, Labour MP for Ochil and South Perthshire,
who lives 30 yards from Siddique's home, said: "The conviction is not for any other member of the family; it is not for any other member of the community, or the Muslim community."
Siddique is due to be sentenced on 23 October at the High Court in Edinburgh.
'YOU DID POSSESS ARTICLES CONNECTED WITH TERRORISM'
• Between 1 March, 2003, and 13 April, 2006, you did possess articles which give rise to a reasonable suspicion that your possession was for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism, namely computers, computer files, video files, pictures and sound files and other files... a number of CDs and floppy discs containing computer files ... depicting amongst other things terrorist propaganda, instructions and information on making bombs.
• On various occasions between 1 September, 2003, and 30 September, 2005, at Glasgow Metropolitan College, Glasgow, you did conduct yourself in a disorderly manner and did show to various students there images of suicide bombers and images of the murder and beheading of persons by terrorists, threaten to become a suicide bomber and carry out acts of terrorism in Glasgow or elsewhere.
• Between 1 September, 2003, and 13 April, 2006, you did provide instruction or training in the making or use of firearms and explosives by means of the internet.
• On 13 April, 2006, you did distribute or circulate terrorist publications by means of websites set up by you.
The model pupil who was 'ready and willing' to die as a martyr
DESCRIBED as a model pupil at school, Mohammed Atif Siddique was a well-presented, quiet young man who pitched in to help at the family shop in the Clackmannanshire town of Alva.
But beneath the respectable appearance was someone obsessed with the violent doctrines of al-Qaeda, a man police believe was already on the path towards achieving martyrdom in a "holy war" against the West.
After leaving school, Siddique, 21, became a dedicated follower of the fundamentalist Islamist terrorism network, using computing skills he learned at college to amass and disseminate a library of material on the internet, including bomb-making manuals, images of suicide bombings and other digital calls to arms.
Siddique, who lives with his parents, Mohammed snr and Parveen, and three other children, Ayesha, Mohammed Asif and Kashif, alarmed fellow college students with his views and threatened to blow up George Square in Glasgow.
Siddique was born in Stirling on 10 November, 1985 into a well-respected family of Pakistani immigrants.
His father runs a newsagent's in the Myretoungate area of Alva, a town with a population of about 5,000.
Siddique went to Alva Primary School and then to Alva Academy in 1997.
Sandy Donoghue, his deputy headmaster there, said the young Siddique was "very polite, always well turned-out in school uniform, very respectful and very quiet".
In 2000, he began attending Forth Valley College in Alloa, a vocational college where he expressed an interest in computing.
The following year he enrolled in a full computing course and in September 2002 went to Glasgow College of Commerce, where he studied computer networks and database systems.
In 2003 Siddique began a two-year HND qualification in information technology at Glasgow Metropolitan College. It was here that a fellow student said Siddique told her he wanted to be a suicide bomber and had met Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda.
Another former student, Kyle Ramsay, recalled a "heated" conversation in class about the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre.
He said: "There was a discussion about 9/11... about who agreed with it and who did not. Mohammed said he agreed."
Mr Ramsay later told police how Siddique had boasted he would be famous.
"In one debate about suicide bombers, I was present with others when Mohammed said that he would make a name for himself and that one day he would be remembered."
In a later interview, he said: "Mohammed agreed with suicide bombers and [said he] would make his own name famous one day.
"I thought it was a weird thing to say. He also mentioned about bombing George Square."
Meanwhile, Mr Siddique snr said he became worried after his son claimed he was going to England with a religious group from Glasgow's Central Mosque.
Siddique set up websites with links to military techniques, weapons and how to conceal booby-traps.
A guide to bomb-making was in one of two online Arabic magazines that could be accessed through a site Siddique ran. It contained information on what is needed to make deadly explosives, including one oil-based preparation said to be more powerful than TNT.
The second site had features and information on guerrilla warfare, intelligence-gathering and weapons.
A laptop seized from Siddique contained stored video footage
with images of bin Laden followed by the twin towers in New York exploding.
Police recovered details of a conversation
in October 2005 when Siddique was told: "I suggest you make a strategic return [home]. The reason is we know what you desire to do for the sake of Allah."
Are laws essential for our protection ... or an attack on freedom?
THE anti-terrorism laws that Mohammed Atif Siddique was found guilty of breaking put two of Britain's most cherished values - safety from violence and freedom of speech - on a collision course.
Some insist the laws are a necessary response to an emerging and unprecedented danger; others claim they are an over- reaction that threatens to undermine the values politicians are expected to defend.
The Terrorism Act 2006, in particular, has been controversial. It was partly motivated by a perception that al-Qaeda was using the relatively lawless internet to recruit and organise.
The Terrorism Act 2006 was spawned from a realisation, after the 7/7 bombings in London, that would-be terrorists were living among us - and the growing suspicion that they were being educated and inspired to commit atrocities via cyberspace.
But Siddique's most serious crime was possessing articles that "give rise to a reasonable suspicion" that having them was "for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism". The articles in question were a series of videos, images and other information stored on his computers.
Despite widespread debate about "Draconian" anti-terror laws introduced after the 9/11 attacks on the US, the offence in question was created before al-Qaeda struck in New York and Washington, sparking the "war on terror."
It was passed by MPs on 15 March, 2000, becoming part of the Terrorism Act 2000.
That offence carries a maximum ten-year sentence.
Perhaps the most contentious successor to the 2000 act has been the Terrorism Act 2006, which provides for another of Siddique's offences - encouraging terrorism by distributing terrorist publications on websites. This carries a maximum seven-year sentence.
Originally intended to cover the "glorification" of terrorism, the measure aroused strong opposition from civil-rights groups, who saw it as an attack on free speech.
Professor Clive Walker, an expert in terrorism laws based at Leeds University, said that the creation of the new offences of which Siddique was found guilty "send out a signal" to al-Qaeda sympathisers. However, he warned that they could also suppress free discussion and legitimate research that could help us understand the threats posed by such groups.
"Such legislation does have some use, but there is a big downside in terms of curtailing legitimate discussion. Sometimes discussion has to be offensive for us to understand people's true viewpoint."
But Patrick Mercer, the government's security adviser and former Conservative home and security spokesman, said the new powers were a necessary evil that will need fine-tuning rather than major surgery.
"The difficulty is maintaining civil liberties in the face of this assault. We have got to be extremely balanced about this. Much of this new legislation is sensible but a lot of it will have to be refined following cases like Siddique."