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06 July 2007, 14:45

First UK convictions for terrorist acts using the internet

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Three sentences ranging from ten to six and a half years have been handed down at Woolwich Crown Court in London under section 59 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (TA2000), for using the web to "incite terrorism overseas". The court hearing, which has run since April, was brought to a close unexpectedly by the three accused suddenly changing their pleas to "guilty".

The Metropolitan Police informed heise Security that this is the first time convictions have been obtained for offences of this nature. The three convictions are the culmination of a legal process that began in October 2005 with the arrest of Younis Tsouli, the ostensible leader of the group, following an investigation that extended as far afield as Bosnia.

English-born Tsouli, 23, who used the screen name "Irhabi007" ("Terrorist007"), has been variously described as a master cracker and moderately technically competent but a very effective self-publicist with a talent for PR. It is suggested that the "James Bond" connotation of his screen name was a sort of rallying point for his associates. He supposedly began to participate in an al-Qaeda message forum in February 2004, and soon progressed to posting terrorist material on free hosting sites. He also reputedly broke into benign web sites to add content supportive of terrorism. However only one specific break-in has apparently been formally attributed to him so far: an FTP server operated by the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department which he suborned as an Al Qaeda message board in July 2004.

So it is not clear how technically sophisticated Tsouli's activities really were, although the rate at which web sites are regularly compromised shows that there are many soft targets. Section 59 of the TA2000, with its somewhat restrictive "overseas" emphasis was, at the time this action was initiated, the only available relevant law, but since then much more all-encompassing legislation, the Terrorism Act 2006, has come into force that contains additional provisions against the general encouragement of terrorism, so we can probably expect further prosecutions in the future.


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