U.K. Court Quashes Conviction of Students Jailed for Downloading Terrorist Material

A British court on Wednesday overturned the convictions of five students jailed for downloading information from the Internet on terrorism and how to make bombs.

The Court of Appeal ordered the five men freed, saying that evidence failed to support allegations that the men planned to use the material "to incite the commission of terrorist acts."

Bradford University students Awaab Iqbal, Aitzaz Zafar, Usman Ahmed Malik and Akbar Butt, along with London student Mohammed Irfan Raja, were convicted last year for possessing articles for terrorist purposes. Their sentences ranged from two to three years in prison.

Prosecutors 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, as well as chatroom conversations that encouraged terrorism or martyrdom.

The men denied the charges and insisted they were simply researching Islam.

Sentencing judge Peter Beaumont said the young men had been "intoxicated by the extremist nature of the material."

They were arrested after Raja, then 18, ran away from home in February 2006, leaving a note for his parents saying he was going to fight abroad. He returned home three days later, and his parents took him to the police.

Raja said he was never serious and had written to the letter to frighten his parents because he was unhappy at home.