Dozens of anti-terrorist investigations and prosecutions are in jeopardy after senior judges yesterday quashed the convictions of five young Muslims for downloading extremist propaganda. Three Court of Appeal judges, led by the Lord Chief Justice, questioned whether they should ever have been prosecuted for merely possessing the material. The ruling means that in future the prosecution will have to prove that defendants intended to commit terrorist attacks. The men, four university students and a schoolboy, who ran away from home saying that he wanted to die fighting jihad, are the first people to have convictions for Islamist terrorism overturned since the War on Terror began in 2001. The judges ordered that Irfan Raja, 20, Awaab Iqbal, 20, Aitzaz Zafar, 21, Usman Malik, 22, and Akbar Butt, 21 – who were in the dock to hear the judgment – be freed immediately. Three hours after the judgment was handed down, the five men walked out the front door of the court. Mr Butt said: Whatever happened has happened and I’m just happy to be out now. I won my freedom back. Sean O’Neill
By Dominic Casciani Five young British Muslim men have been jailed for downloaded and sharing masses of extremist material. During their trial they argued that they were not terrorists but intellectually curious. But what evidence convinced the jury they had gone too far? When Mohammed Irfan Raja quietly walked out of his family home in Ilford, east London, on 24 February 2006, he had dreams of becoming known for something more than the 18-year-old schoolboy he then was. But today, as the 19-year-old and four men from Bradford University begin jail sentences, his name becomes just another associated with the jihadi extremism of radicalised young British Muslim men. In one of the first trials of its kind Raja, Awaab Iqbal, 20, Aitzaz Zafar, 20, Usman Malik, 21, and Akbar Butt, 20 have been jailed for downloading and sharing extremist terrorism-related material.