Islamic preacher charged with promoting ISIS in UK
A prominent preacher, lawyer, and regular British talk show guest, Anjem Choudary is known for openly expressing his pro-Islam political and religious views.
The UK has been clamping down on terrorism in recent months, amid growing fears of becoming a hotbed for radical militants.
On Wednesday, prosecutors charged Anjem Choudary, a well-known radical Islamic preacher, with enticing support for Islamic State (ISIS) through lectures published online, The Washington Post reports.
Mr. Choudary and one of his followers, Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, each face charges under Terrorism Act 2000 for their alleged pro-ISIS efforts between June 29, 2014 and March 6 this year.
Prosecutor Sue Hemming accused the two of stirring "support for ISIS in individual lectures which were subsequently published online," a statement said.
Choudary has been out on bail since last September, when he, Mr. Rahman, and seven others were arrested as part of an investigation into Islamist terrorism.
A high-profile preacher, lawyer and regular British talk show guest, Choudary is known for openly expressing his political and religious views.
He co-founded an Islamist group, al-Muhajiroun, which was banned in 2010, and went on to form several other organizations such as Ghurabaa and Islam4UK, which have also been proscribed, reports the Guardian. "Proscription means membership of the militant group is a criminal offence, and that the organisation cannot lawfully operate in the UK," according to the BBC.
With over 32,000 Twitter followers, he regularly posts statements criticizing Western governments, discussing the latest cases involving detained Muslims (including his own followers), and preaching radical Islamic creeds.
The preacher sparked controversy in recent years by protesting against British soldiers who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, in his efforts to defend slain Muslims, The Wall Street Journal reports. He has also been linked with a number of British nationals who were subsequently convicted on terrorism charges.
Choudary follows a fundamentalist Muslim doctrine called Salafism and is an ardent believer in Sharia, Islamic religious law. Over the past year, he has broadcasted audio lectures online through video chats and social media applications like Whatsapp and Twitter.
Despite his contentious past, Choudary has never been convicted of anything beyond organizing an unlawful demonstration, the Post reports. He has regularly denied supporting violence in the past and has claimed he hasn’t broken any laws.
His case is one of the first of its kind to come up since British Prime Minister David Cameron announced a comprehensive five-year plan to combat homegrown radical extremism last month. Mr. Cameron plans to introduce stricter legislation later this year that will tighten the government’s grip on online activity in order to monitor those who try to radicalize British citizens.
The plan is one of many efforts to keep people away from ISIS’s recruitment and outreach tactics. One of the terrorist group’s most famous militants, Mohammed Emwazi, also known as "Jihadi John," was a British national. He made international headlines last summer over his high-profile beheadings of hostages, including American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
The Kuwaiti-born Londoner has since left the terrorist organization and is wanted for murder by the United States and Britain.