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The convictions of five young Muslim men jailed over extremist literature have been quashed by the Appeal Court.
Freeing the men, the Lord Chief Justice said their convictions for downloading extremist propaganda were unsafe as there was no proof of terrorist intent.
A jury convicted the students in 2007 after hearing the men, of Bradford and Ilford, east London, became obsessed with jihadi websites and literature.
The lawyer for one said they had been jailed for a "thought crime".
In one of the first trials of its kind, Irfan Raja, Awaab Iqbal, Aitzaz Zafar, Usman Malik and Akbar Butt were jailed by an Old Bailey judge for downloading and sharing extremist terrorism-related material. The men all received sentences of between two and three years.
But at the Court of Appeal, Lord Phillips said the men had clearly downloaded extremist material but he doubted if there was evidence to support the prosecution's case that this was in relation to planning terrorist acts.
"Difficult questions of interpretation have been raised in this case by the attempt by the prosecution to use [this law] for a purpose for which it was not intended," he said.
......Lawyers for the five men say the decision to restrict how the law on extremist literature works has huge implications for counter terrorism prosecutions.
Critics inside the muslim community and civil liberty campaigners say section 57 of 2000 Terrorism Act has been used as a blunt instrument to prosecute young muslim men where there is no proof of genuine links to terrorism.
The BBC understands there have been three other convictions under this legislation - but a string of related cases are expected before the courts this year.
The government has seven days in which to decide whether to appeal against the ruling.
Imran Khan, solicitor for Mr Zafar, said they had been prosecuted for "thought crime".
And in a statement released through his solicitors, Mr Malik said he had always maintained his innocence and had been vindicated by the Lord Chief Justice.
"It is a great thing to live in a country where the Lord Chief Justice takes the time from hearing important cases to see if a group of unknown students have been fairly convicted for reading the wrong kind of literature," he said.
"As I said when I was arrested, I do not, have not and will not support terrorism in any form against innocent people.
"My prosecution was a test case under the 2000 Terrorism Act. Today's decision means no first year student can ever be prosecuted again under this Act for possessing extremist literature."
news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/bsp/h...ajaletter1.pdf (external - login to view)
During the trial, the jury heard that the four Bradford students were arrested after Mr Raja, then a schoolboy in Ilford, had run away to join them in Yorkshire.
The teenager, who had been unhappy at home, left a note for his parents saying he was going to fight abroad after getting to know the others via online chatrooms used by extremist recruiters.
But within days, he realised his mistake and returned home. His parents, shocked by the letter, had already alerted the police. Mr Raja co-operated with detectives, leading to the arrest of all five of the group and the collection of the extremist material.
But in their hearing before the Court of Appeal, the men argued that they should not have been convicted solely on the allegation that they had downloaded and shared literature off the internet.
The material included publications popular among extreme Islamist organisations, encouraging Muslims to fight. One of the five had also used a computer to superimpose his own face on a montage of the 9/11 hijackers.
But lawyers for the men said that the law had been designed to catch people holding plans for bombs rather than propaganda.
None of the men possessed information which suggested they were plotting a bomb attack, although there had been talk of heading to Pakistan for paramilitary training.
The prosecution, they argued, had relied on a "maverick use" of the law which had never been intended by Parliament, said the appeal lawyers.
Joel Bennathan QC, for Mr Zafar, told the Court of Appeal that his client had been criminalised over literature.
"The evidence at trial was that [Mr Zafar] made no attempt to conceal his very large collection of pro-jihadi sermons and lectures," said Mr Bennathan in his written arguments to the court.
"His computer had no password, nor was any significant material encrypted or deleted."
It was just porn anyways.