Azara Blog: So-called lyrical terrorist wins appeal against conviction

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Date published: 2008/06/17

The BBC says:

A former Heathrow worker, who called herself the "lyrical terrorist" because of the extremist poems she wrote, has won an appeal against her conviction.

Samina Malik, 24, from west London, was found guilty in November of collecting information likely to be useful to those preparing for a terrorism act.

The Court of Appeal has now quashed the conviction after prosecution lawyers conceded it was unsafe.
...
Giving judgement, Lord Phillips said: "We consider that there is a very real danger that the jury became confused and that the prosecution have rightly conceded that this conviction is unsafe."

He went on to explain how in February this year, the Court of Appeal had studied Section 58 of the Terrorism Act in detail.

It had concluded that an offence would be committed under the act only if a document was of a kind likely to provide practical assistance to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

Propagandist or theological material did not fall within Section 58, Lord Phillips said.

In Ms Malik's case, some of the documents used as evidence were therefore ruled not to fall within the section.

Lord Phillips added: "The jury was required to consider not only documents which were capable of being of practical utility for a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, but a large number of documents that were not.

"We consider that there was scope for the jury to have become confused."
...
Sue Hemming, head of the CPS's counter terrorism division, said 21 documents the prosecution relied on in Ms Malik's trial "would no longer be held capable of giving practical assistance to terrorists".

"However, other documents in her possession, including the al-Qaeda Manual, the Terrorist's Handbook, the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook and several military manuals, clearly retain that potential.

"We therefore have no doubt that it was right to bring this prosecution."

But taking into account the time Ms Malik had spent on remand before her first trial and the likely non-custodial sentence she would receive upon conviction in a retrial meant the CPS had decided not to take the case to court again, she said.

"Ms Malik was not prosecuted for her poetry. She was prosecuted for possessing documents that could provide practical assistance to terrorists," she added.

A small bit of sanity returns to the British courtroom. But it is rather patronising of Phillips to claim that the jury might have become "confused". The jury is given evidence and it is up to the lawyers and judge(s) to make sure that the jury understands what the law is. Further, what is really worrying is not so much that the jury got it wrong, but that the CPS got it so wrong. The jury is made up of legal amateurs, the CPS is allegedly made up of legal professionals. Is anybody in the CPS going to be disciplined for this clear and basic misunderstanding of the law?

Even the alleged illegality of some of the documents does the reputation of British justice no good. Why shouldn't people be able to read what the nutters in al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations are saying? It is unfortunate that Blair was so keen to introduce the thought police into the British legal system.

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