Daily Record

September 18, 2007, Tuesday

OUR SON IS INNOCENT;

FAMILY INSIST THEIR BOY WAS 'LOOKING FOR ANSWERS' ON THE INTERNET SIDDIQUE DAD SAYS SON HATES VIOLENCE

BYLINE: By Amy Devine

SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 6

LENGTH: 788 words

 

SIDDIQUE'S father is adamant his son is innocent.

Mohammed Siddique snr said yesterday: "He has done nothing wrong and is against terrorism.

"Atif was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

And his son's solicitor, Aamer Anwar, went on to brand the verdict "a tragedy for justice and for freedom of speech".

Shopkeeper Mohammed snr, who has lived in the community for more than 25 years, insisted nobody from his family could be involved with terrorism.

He added: "We are adamant Atif is innocent and we have never embraced any kind of violence.

"Ninety-nine percent of people who come into our shop are white and we have built up some long-term relationships with them. We send people Christmas cards."

He also spoke out as he recalled how police raided the family home in April 2006, a week after Siddique and his uncle Rafik were stopped as they boarded a flight to Pakistan.

Mohammed snr, 45, said 12 officers smashed the front door of his house down with a battering ram - after he had offered them the keys.

And he told how they snatched bedclothes from his sleeping children before the family were handcuffed and taken away to be interrogated.

Central Scotland Police officers arrested Mohammed Atif, Mohammed snr, his wife Parveen and the couple's other children Mohammed Asif, then 27, Ayesha, then 15, and Kashif, then 13.

Mohammed snr said the family were "treated like dirt".

His son Mohammed Asif also claimed his brother was "totally against terrorism".

He said: "Atif is an inquisitive boy. He was curious to find out more about the war in Iraq.

"He visited a few websites, maybe like the al-Jazeera website, but there's nothing wrong with that."

Speaking on the steps of the High Court, Siddique's solicitor Aamer Anwar announced his client "did not receive a fair trial" and was considering an appeal.

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

"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."

He added: "Today, Mohammed Atif Siddique was found guilty of doing what millions of young people do every day - look 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.

"It is farcical that part of the evidence against Atif was that he grew a beard, had documents in Arabic which he could not even read and downloaded material from a legitimate Israeli website."

He added that Siddique made no attempt to escape or destroy his home computer in the seven days after his initial arrest.

Mr Anwar continued: "Young Muslims live in a climate of fear no different to that experienced by the Irish community in the last century."

Osama Saeed, Scottish spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, said that despite the conviction, there was no evidence that Siddique was part of a wider terror campaign.

He said: "The trial did not uncover a plot, much less an active plot, to cause death and destruction here in Scotland.

"What we heard was a story of a teenager who was involved in ideas, particularly on the internet, which he shouldn't have been.

"This was motivated clearly by his concern for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, wars in which our country is still involved.

"The challenge for the Muslim community and wider society is to stress the legitimate forms of dissent - through the democratic process."

There are around 70,000 Muslims in Scotland, and terror expert Dr Gabriele Marranci, of Aberdeen University, doubts any could be radicalised to commit acts of violence through the internet alone.

He said: "The website by itself does not work. People need a face-to-face network, a sense of solidarity and mutual discussion.

"When I speak to people who are radicalised over the internet, they had never gone and met anyone.

"Yes, they were full of these kinds of ideology but they were never going to organise some kind of plot."

Strathclyde University's professor David Miller argues that millions of Britons have been "radicalised" since the 9/11 attacks of 2001 but that only a "vanishingly small" minority are prepared to go to extreme lengths as a result.

He added: "There is no infrastructure for these people in this country.

"You can see that from what happened at Glasgow Airport.

"The Muslim community as a whole is not in favour of Jihad."

'He has done nothing wrong and is against terrorism. Atif was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.'