This joke isn’t funny anymore. Last week Samina Malik, 23, who, until her arrest, worked at WHSmith in London’s Heathrow airport, became the first person to be convicted under the Terrorism Act 2006. Her crime? She downloaded material from the internet which could assist in the perpetration of a terrorist offense. Not only that. When police searched her bedroom, they found a “library” of extremist literature. She also wrote, and posted online, poems which praise Osama bin Laden.
Here’s Peter Clarke, head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command: “She had the ideology, ability and determination to access and download material which could have been useful to terrorists. Merely possessing this material is a serious criminal offence.” According to Jonathan Sharpe, the prosecutor, those poems, or, as he calls them, “communications”, “strongly indicate Samina Malik was deeply involved with terrorist related groups.”
Just how nightmarishly Orwellian are our anti-terror laws going to get? Malik has been convicted for writing poetry – for owning books. This crime carries a maximum sentence of ten years. There’s no evidence that she had anything to do with actual terrorism. Yet the government is pushing to further increase the powers of the Terrorism Act, because it isn’t authoritarian enough. Unbelievably, the current protector of our liberties is David Davis.
Malik’s online name was ‘Lyrical Terrorist’. Here she tells the court some basic truths. “It is only a user name. You have taken it too literally and out of context. It was only because it was a cool name. It doesn’t mean I’m a terrorist… This does not mean that I wanted to convert my words into actions… To partake in something and to write about something are two different things.” Malik will be sentenced on December 6th. Until then she’s under house arrest.
[Update: Free Smina Malik]