Three men have been sentenced to a total of 24 years in prison after admitting to inciting terrorism over the Internet in the first case of its kind in Britain, police said on Thursday.
The men, said by prosecutors to have close ties to al-Qaida, pleaded guilty to inciting acts of terrorism "wholly or partly" outside Britain via Web sites which advocated killing non-Muslims.
Moroccan-born Younes Tsouli, Briton Waseem Mughal and Jordanian-born Tariq al-Daour changed their original "not guilty" pleas more than two months into their trial which had begun at Woolwich Crown Court in east London in April.
Tsouli, 23, of London, was jailed for 10 years; Mughal, 23, of Chatham, Kent, for seven-and-a-half years and al-Dour, 20, of London, to six-and-a-half years.
London police said the men had set up Web sites, using stolen credit cards and identities, to promote al-Qaida propaganda, including the beheading of Western hostages.
The material was crafted to help recruit suicide bombers in Iraq and elsewhere "who may be prepared to kill so-called disbeliever enemies on a global scale," the police added in a statement.
It was the first time anyone had been prosecuted in Britain for using the Internet to incite terrorism, said Peter Clarke, head of London's Counter Terrorism Command.
"These three men, by their own admission, were encouraging others to become terrorists and murder innocent people," he said.
"This is the first successful prosecution for inciting murder using the Internet, showing yet again that terrorist networks are spanning the globe."
In another unique aspect of the case, detectives said Tsouli and al-Daour had never met and had communicated only online.
Prosecutors said the men had also kept car bomb-making manuals and videos of how to wire suicide vests. Other documents included "The Mujahideen Poisons Handbook" and "The Mujahideen Explosives Handbook."
Tsouli, the suspected ringleader, used the online identity "irhabi007"--the Arabic word for terrorist, followed by the code number of the fictional British spy James Bond.
He was responsible for setting up an Internet chat room forum used by al-Qaida supporters from which explosives and weapons manuals could be downloaded.