Posts Tagged ‘Crime’

Four Years For ‘Planning’ Terror

January 10, 2008

I don’t usually blog about political/legal issues, but this story disturbed me:

Man jailed over terrorism charges (Times Online)

From the article:

“A dentist who tried to fly to Pakistan with military equipment and £9,000 cash in his luggage has been jailed for four and a half years for preparing to engage in terrorism.

Sohail Qureshi, 29, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to charges of preparing to commit terrorist activity and possessing items of use to terrorists, including a night vision scope and medical supplies.”

Sohail Qureshi

 

Qureshi had also been in contact with the so-called ‘lyrical terrorist‘, Samina Malik, who worked at Heathrow and was charged last month for ‘possessing terrorist material’. Qureshi’s is the first case to be charged under new laws which prohibit planning terrorism.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find it more than a little alarming that a sentence can be this severe when — bottom line — Qureshi hadn’t actually done anything. Okay, he’s confessed that he wanted to kill people; he left messages on extremist Islamic websites; he’d been trained by Al Qaeda; and he even took some equipment and cash with him.

None of this is the mark of a model citizen, and Qureshi was — rightly — under increased surveillance. But, let’s be clear about this, the man has been sentenced to four and a half years effectively on the basis of what we think he’s going to do. Call me a liberal if you like, but this doesn’t sit too well with me.

Now, I’ve seen messages from people who say things like ‘actions don’t occur in isolation – if we hadn’t stopped him, he would’ve definitely killed people’. Maybe so, but we can’t be sure of that, can we? I think this is treading on dangerous ground, because the ‘evidence’ is effectively defined by prediction and interpretation of someone’s motives. Just look at the wording in the BBC News article: “He pleaded guilty to possessing articles for terrorist purposes and articles likely to be useful to a terrorist.” Likely to be useful?

While it’s true that actions aren’t isolated from thought, if we’re charging people based on what they’re planning to do where do we stop?

I’ll leave you with the judge’s statement from the BBC News article:

“[These are] grave charges… You were ready for terrorist operations overseas but there is no specific indication of what they are or where they might be.”

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Facebook Now Being Used To Solve Crimes

August 2, 2007

The Register is reporting that a Londoner who was a burglary victim has turned to social networking nirvana Facebook to help catch the perp:

Victim turns to Facebook in hunt for brazen burglar

Jackie McGeown is using a picture taken by an innocent bystanding builder on his mobile to publicise the alleged ne’er-do-well’s nefarious deed, and to help catch the crook:

“Users with tips on the possible identity of the burglar can pass on leads via Facebook. McGeown said: “Maybe he’s burgled you. Or maybe you’ve poked him on Facebook. If you know who he is, let me know!””

If you think you’ve got what it takes to be the first of what will surely become many Web 2.0 social networking detectives, simply join Jackie’s Facebook group — DO YOU RECOGNISE MY BURGLAR? — and get poking!

Hoping to pip everyone to the post and win the glory, even though I neither live in London nor care particularly about whether or not Jackie finds her burglar, I’ve scoured Facebook in an attempt to find said group, so far with zero success. If anyone does find it, or else finds out that this is all a (not so) elaborate hoax, leave a comment below.