Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Choudary Jailed in Britain, Supporters Hinging on Good Behavior for Early Release | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Anjem Choudary, the leader of the dissolved militant group al-Muhajiroun, arrives at Bow Street Magistrates Court in London July 4, 2006. REUTERS/Stephen Hird/Files

London-Britain’s best-known extremist preacher was jailed on Tuesday for five years and six months for encouraging support for ISIS following a four-week trial at London’s Old Bailey criminal court.

Anjem Choudary, 49, had been convicted by a jury in July of violating Britain’s anti-terror laws to back the terrorist group.

Supporters of the 49-year-old shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) from the public gallery as the judge announced his decision.

Several of his supporters told Asharq Al-Awsat that Choudary would be released after serving half of his sentence at the Belmarsh maximum security jail.

“Good behavior at the prison would increase Choudary’s chances to be released earlier,” said one of them.

His close associate Mizanur Rahman, 33, received the same sentence.

Officials said that the authorities had not been able to take previous judicial measures against both men because they had carried out their activities without crossing the criminal threshold.

Judge Timothy Holroyde, in the ruling handed down at the court, said: “A significant proportion of those listening to your words would be impressionable persons looking to you for guidance on how to act.”

Choudary, of Pakistani origin, was born in 1967. He is a father-of-five.

He is the former head of the now banned organization al-Muhajiroun.

Al-Muhajiroun, whose name in Arabic means ‘The Emigrants’, has been viewed as a breeding ground for militants since it was founded in the late 1990s by Syrian-born Islamist cleric Omar Bakri. He was banished from Britain in 2005.

Bakri is currently jailed in Lebanon.

Choudary told Asharq Al-Awsat in September last year that the Belmarsh jail is considered a five-star hotel compared to Lebanon’s Roumieh prison where Bakri is serving his sentence.

Minister of Justice in Theresa May’s government Elizabeth Truss has issued to prison officials new orders that aim at fighting terrorism and the spread of extremism.

One of the measures includes improving extremism prevention training for all officers.

The new plans form part of a large-scale prison review undertaken by Ian Acheson in September 2015, a former prison governor, under former Justice Secretary Michael Gove, which aimed to halt radicalization in the UK.