Mohammed Atif Siddique, who walked free on Tuesday after the Court of Appeal quashed his conviction under Section 57 of the Terrorism Act 2000, has been described as a "stupid young man." Stupidity at the age of 20 isn't a very serious flaw. Dunder-headedness on the part of Scotland's police and prosecutors is a lot more worrying. But what else can you call their doggy, excitable, unthinking pursuit of Atif Siddique?
Their dunder-headedness was combined with a smart-Alec approach to the law. What else can you call the decision by the police to delay Atif Siddique's arrest until 13 April 2006, the very day that the controversial Terrorism Act 2006 came into force? That allowed them to add an extra item – encouraging terrorism – to the charge-sheet, in case the other charges wouldn't stick. The device was successful and the conviction for this essentially frivolous charge still stands, even though Atif Siddique has now been cleared of the main charge against him.
All this might be amusing if it hadn't cost Atif Siddique nearly four years of his life and the stigma of a couple of terrorism convictions. It might be amusing if it wasn't eerily reminiscent of the Bush regime's over-wrought, pig-headed manoeuvres to incorporate torture into official US policy, or Blair's "now it's legal, now it isn't but it doesn't matter" approach to the war in Iraq.
Counsel for the Crown said at Tuesday's appeal court hearing "Mohammed Siddique remains convicted of serious terrorist offences." It would have been more accurate to say "Mohammed Atif Siddique remains convicted on frivolous terrorism charges that should never have been put before a court."
One of these charges is the smart-Alec charge under the Terrorism Act 2006, a law that Atif Siddique broke for less than a day. Perhaps he would have closed the offending website down before the new law came into force if he hadn't been distracted as a result of having been stopped by police a week earlier. As it was, he probably didn't even notice the new law. Who can blame him?