British court sentenced five students to jail Thursday for collecting information on bomb-making and terrorism. The five had been convicted Tuesday of possessing articles for terrorist purposes, the Crown Prosecution Service said.
Police who searched the men's computers found a U.S. military guide giving instructions on how to make explosive devices and a suicide bombing manual downloaded from the Internet, as well as chatroom conversations that encouraged terrorism or martyrdom. The men denied the charges and insisted they were simply researching Islam.
"This was not just a case of adolescent fantasy or young men messing around and talking big to impress their friends," said Susan Hemming, head of the prosecution service's counterterrorism division.
"These students collected a large quantity of extremist information on their computers, information which was designed to encourage themselves or others to take the path of martyrdom and violence towards innocent people," Hemming said.
Mohammed Irfan Raja, 19, of Ilford, was sentenced to two years in youth detention. Awaab Iqbal, 20, of Bradford, and Aitzaz Zafar, 20, of Rochdale, were sentenced to two years in prison.
Usman Ahmed Malik, 21, of Bradford, was sentenced to three years, and Akbar Butt, 20, was sentenced to 27 months. "You were intoxicated by the extremist nature of the material each one of you collected - the songs, images and the language of violent jihad," Judge Peter Beaumont said. "And so carried away by that material were you that each of you crossed the line."
Raja had left a note for his parents saying he was going to fight abroad, but returned home three days later. His parents took him to the police. Raja had been communicating and exchanging material with the others, who were students at Bradford University in central England.
Prosecutor Andrew Edis said Raja had planned to attend a training camp in Pakistan, but he was not "as firm in his purpose as he hoped he would be."
"He had hidden his purpose from his family who were beside themselves when they found out what he had done. They were absolutely beside themselves with worry and fear," Edis said. "They are orthodox Muslims and do not subscribe to this extremist or radical strain of thought."
Raja said he was never serious and had written to the letter to frighten his parents because he was unhappy at home.