Issue 245, Friday 25 September 2009 - 6 Sha'ban 1430
What if they had been Muslim?
It was perhaps the quickest acquittal ever in a ‘terrorist’ trial. Charges against two teenagers at Manchester Crown Court were thrown out by the jury in less than an hour. Defence barrister, Roderick Carus, argued that the case was more to do with the “frivolity of youth.”
So 18-year-old Matthew Swift and his 16-year-old friend Ross McKnight walked free after being accused of conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to cause explosions. Their plot to blow up a shopping centre before killing “thousands” in a Columbine-style massacre at their school was apparently just a schoolboy fantasy. The entire jury of seven women and five men reportedly even waited outside the court to wave at the defendants as they left.
There was also no talk of a re-trial as has happened in other terrorist cases. The Crown Prosecution Service believed it had sufficient evidence to justify a conviction. Assistant Chief Constable, Terry Sweeney, responsible for criminal justice at Greater Manchester Police, defended the decision to prosecute but accepted the verdict. “It is for a jury to decide whether there is sufficient evidence for a conviction,” he said.
It was left to the Defence barrister to put differences about the trial into context. “We in this country have been incredibly concerned about our own security and rightly so, if not the IRA, it’s Muslim extremists and so forth,” he said. “We mustn’t condemn ‘our’ young people because they have flights of fantasy.”
Many Muslims have been asking a legitimate question, what if the young boys were Muslim? They most probably would have been arrested, charged and convicted under the terrorism legislation.