Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Friday, 15 February 2008

The Right To Think, To Read And To Talk

I have to say one of the better stories of the week has been this one, relating to the five students who were freed pn appeal having been banged up for possessing extremist literature.

That these men had downloaded and shared terrorism-related material is not in doubt. What is disputed is why they did it. And the Appeal Court has identified what the original case apparently missed, namely the importance of intent. As Lord Carlile has since confirmed, it is fundamentally wrong that anyone should be imprisoned "for mere thoughts, mere fantasies, mere wishes - even for their reading matter".

I remember feeling hugely unconfortable over the conviction last year of the "Lyrical Terrorist"; she of WH Simth till roll fame, who wrote - to herself, as far as I can make out - of becoming a martyr, but who appeared to do nothing about it. I wonder if her conviction might now go the same way as that of these five others.

This is a diifcult area for the government and the judiciary. We know that there are probably hundreds if not thousands of people living here who would quite happily commit terrorist offences against the English if and when they got the chance. And we know that the Internet provides them with a rich source of information as to how to go about it. We have a country to protect and a way of life, incorporating a basic love of freedom that we must defend at all costs. But if we start locking people up just for thinking about terrorism, reading about it or talking about it then we should ask ourselves what the hell we're fighting for.

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