Wed, 26 Dec 2007

First woman convicted under the Terrorism Act

The BBC story about Samina Malik explains:

The jury found her not guilty of possessing articles for terrorist purposes. [ Section 57 of the Terrorism Act 2000]

But they did convict of the lesser terror charge of collecting articles "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism". [ Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000]

This gives Malik the dubious honour of being the first woman ever convicted for offences related to Islamist terrorism in the UK.

Samina Malik is the 23-year old English woman who wrote bad poetry under the pseudonym of the ‘Lyrical Terrorist’ among others. This case is ‘profoundly disturbing’; this is the expression used by Gareth Peirce about the same Section 58 under which Malik was convicted.

This unease is shared by Rachel North who has been researching muslim radicalisation for the past two and half years:

There are many things about this case which disturb me (besides the appalling comparison of Owen's devastating poetry with Samina's ghastly scrawls). I think there are a great many Saminas in this country. In suburban bedrooms all over the UK, young men and women of all ages and religions and colours and shapes and sizes are writing bad poetry, listening to horrible lyrics, wearing black clothes, keeping diaries about how they hate the world and nobody understands, slamming the door and not coming down to eat their tea on time.
Things were ever thus.


Samina did not own any bombs, or guns, or quantities of fertiliser or peroxide, or detonators. She owned literature, and she wrote obnoxious lyrics and she seems to me to be as star-struck as the young girls and boys who wish they were ''with the band'', and who write letters and poetry expressing their admiration for the gangster rap thug, the death-metal anti-hero, the groupie-slapping rock star. If you can't drink, or smoke, or get a tattoo, or stay out late at gigs and hang about in trashy bars, then how do you express your rebellion? Samina wore a hijab, when her mother didn't. Samina wrote truly awful poetry. Samina, the shop girl, bored in WH Smiths beeping endless stuff through the tills to the endless airport crowds, then back home in her suburban bedroom, hoped to meet radical boys who thought she was ''cool''. Samina is the first woman to be convicted under the Terrorism Act.

Gareth Peirce pointed out that ‘we now see a new and disturbing phenomenon whereby more than one innocent defendant [is] unable to comprehend the accusation levelled’. It is not only defendants who find it difficult to comprehend that such possession is inconsistent with the right to freedom of thought. Here are Kathz' thoughts:

As children, my brother and I practised stealing handkerchiefs from one another's pockets. We were inspired by Fagin's gang in Oliver Twist. We became rather skilful - but never practised our skills on anyone else. We wrote stories - some in first person - imagining all kinds of extreme scenarios. My brother, aged 6, wrote a letter to a friend which suggested dynamiting the school he attended. (The head was quite worried by this but our mum was, rightly, amused. She knew the difference between play and act.) In my head I explored violent scenarios and I turned some of them into poems. I knew they weren't real. They will never be real.

In my poems, I still explore different characters and different points of view. In my novel (the one I will probably never finish) I explore a range of themes, including violence and murder. It's not real.

It's not real.

I haven't read full accounts of Samina Malik's trial. But so far as I can see, she has done no more than I would in exploring a character or point of view - or in following ideas on the web with curiosity. She has read books. She has visited websites. She has written poems. And she adopted a range of tags, including "Lyrical Terrorist."

I don't think real terrorists advertise their intentions in this way.

But Samina Malik has been told she faces a jail sentence. The charge was collecting articles "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism." I have articles like that. I have an Oyster card and a London tube map. I have an encycopedia which probably has more useful advice than the dangerous literature she is said to have collected.

One item of dangerous litterature found in the possession of Malik was the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook. Dick Destiny was asked by the defense to contribute a short analysis concerning this book:

It contains many errors and some rather large fabrications which, while not obvious to laymen, are glaringly apparent to professionals trained in chemistry and biology.

DD has combed over it many times in the past year, tracing its origins and showing that it is fundamentally just an abridged and Bowdlerized copy of a pamphlet that had been published in the US in 1988, Maxwell Hutchkinson's The Poisoner's Handbook (Loompanics).


Malik was convicted for possessing records deemed to be of potential use to terrorists, including the document pictured above. It has been published many places on the web and the above snapshot was published in a Sunday edition of the Washington Post newspaper in 2005.

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