Anjem Choudary free to preach again as he gives first public statement since release from prison
Anjem Choudary today vowed to resume preaching in his first open address since an order banning him from speaking in public was lifted.
The 54 year-old hate preacher, who was jailed five years ago for supporting the Islamic State terror group, remained unapologetic for his crimes calling himself a “prisoner of faith”.
Police and intelligence services had placed Choudary under more than 20 license conditions after he was released from Belmarsh high-security prison in 2018.
As well as being prohibited from speaking in public, his internet and mobile phone use was restricted and he was banned from being in contact with people who may be suspected of extremist-related offences without prior approval.
These restrictions came to an end today.
In an address to a small crowd of journalists the extremist from Ilford, east London, said nobody in his community would “have a bad thing to say about me.”
But halfway through his speech, in which none of Choudary’s supporters were in attendance, one passerby, of South Asian origin, shouted: “You don’t speak for us.”
Choudary, seemingly ignoring the heckler’s comments, said: “I have the fortitude to speak the truth. I like to invite people to Islam, I think it’s a noble thing to do.
“I’m in a unique position that my restrictions were one of the most severe that have been meted out to anyone.
“Not being able to speak to the media was one of the restrictions, I like to talk about the affairs affecting Muslims, that was quite painful for me.”
When challenged over his alleged support for the bombing of the Twin Towers in 2001 and the attacks on London’s Tube network in 2007, he said: “This is not true. We’re talking about historical issues from over 20 years ago.
He continued: “I don’t believe that I supported any prescribed organisation. I don’t think I have ever incited violence.”
Once a leading figure in the now-banned group al-Muhajiroun (ALM), the former solicitor had previously stayed on the right side of the law for years – despite being seen as a radicalising influence.
From the 1990s, the father-of-five was a prominent figure in ALM, which also operated under a number of other names.
Over 20 years he voiced controversial views on Sharia law while building up a following of thousands through social media, demonstrations and lectures around the world.
While there has been no suggestion Choudary organised any attacks, others previously linked to ALM include Michael Adebolajo, one of the murderers of Fusilier Lee Rigby, and Khuram Butt, the ringleader of the London Bridge terror attack.
During his teenage years the Fishmongers’ Hall attacker Usman Khan also took an interest in Choudary’s views.
Muslim convert Lewis Ludlow, who plotted a terror attack on Oxford Street, attended a demonstration led by Choudary and the ALM group.
But former head of counter-terror policing Mark Rowley previously said Choudary was not “some sort of evil genius”, dismissing him as a “pathetic groomer” during an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“I think we have to be careful not to overstate his significance,” he added.
Whether counter-terror police and MI5 will continue to track Choudary or consider him a person of interest has not been confirmed.
But ALM is expected to remain of considerable interest.
Other measures available to security services and police which could be considered in such instances are Tpims (Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures).
They are seen as the strictest monitoring tool available to use against people suspected to be involved in terrorism or who present a threat, but cannot be prosecuted or deported.
A Tpim notice – which can be in place for up to two years – can involve conditions like an enforced curfew, tagging, having to stay away from certain locations and restrictions on overseas travel.
A senior security source said: “Disruptive measures – including jail terms and licence conditions – have had a substantial impact on the ability of ALM to propagate their toxic ideology.
“While the group cynically preys on vulnerable individuals, its spokespeople have hidden behind their cult-like status while encouraging others to commit acts of violence. The group breeds on propaganda, and should be starved of the oxygen of publicity it relies on to spread hatred.”