Anjem Choudary saw being ‘number one radicaliser’ as ‘badge of honour’, court hears

Anjem Choudary has pleaded not guilty to membership of Al-Muhajiroun at his trial
Anjem Choudary has pleaded not guilty to membership of Al-Muhajiroun at his trial - Dominic Lipinski/PA

Anjem Choudary considered being viewed as Britain’s number one radicaliser as a “badge of honour”, a court has heard.

Choudary, the Islamist preacher, is alleged to have taken a “caretaker role” in directing Al-Muhajiroun (ALM), a banned terrorist organisation, his trial at Woolwich Crown Court was told on Friday.

The 57-year-old, of Ilford, east London, is also accused of being a member of the proscribed organisation for “many years” and encouraging support for it through online meetings.

The prosecution alleges that Choudary directed that terrorist organisation for a significant period of time from 2014 onwards and also encouraged support for that organisation by addressing online meetings of the Islamic Thinkers Society (ITS). Prosecutors allege the New York-based ITS and ALM were “one and the same”.

On Friday, the court heard that during one of his lectures Choudary appeared to think that the authorities were worried about him.

Choudary told the class: “When I went to prison here in this country in 2016 they opened up a separation centre for me and my dear brothers because they had become so worried about our Dawah (spreading the word of Islam).

“We never carried swords, we never carried guns or knives. They said to me, they said you are the number one radicaliser in Britain they said, glory to Allah.

“You know they expected me to be unhappy with that; I’m like… that is a badge of honour for me.”

Tom Little KC, prosecutor, said: “He thought that being regarded as a number one radicaliser as a badge of honour – what does that tell you about his mindset?”

Also on trial is Khaled Hussein, 29, from Canada, who prosecutors say was a “follower and dedicated supporter” of Choudary.

He has pleaded not guilty to membership of ALM, while Choudary denies directing a terrorist organisation, being a member of a proscribed organisation and addressing meetings to encourage support for a proscribed organisation.

Secret recordings

Secret recordings also captured conversations involving Choudary speaking to his wife and also with Omar Bakri Mohammed, the spiritual leader of ALM.

Omar Bakri Mohammed, who founded ALM, was in prison in Lebanon between 2014 and March 2023, and Choudary stepped in and “filled the void”, Mr Little previously said.

Jurors have been told Choudary was convicted of supporting Isis in 2016.

He was released from jail on Oct 19 2018 and was on licence until July 18 2021.

Mr Little said the conviction made Choudary “more cautious” about who he spoke to, but that his “desire” to further ALM’s aims caused him to “let down his guard”.

ITS was infiltrated by undercover law enforcement officers in the US, who were present at online lectures and classes given by Choudary.

On Friday Mr Little said Choudary was “clearly cognisant of the risks” he took when discussing more radical and extreme topics, including cautioning his listeners on occasions that he was not seeking to encourage them in a particular direction.

The prosecution believe he had become more cautious after having been prosecuted for such matters before but Choudary felt he was among friends, associates and those he could trust.

Mr Little added that “leopards don’t change their spots and Anjem Choudary has not changed his mindset”.

In an online session in June 2022, Choudary sought to teach a strict interpretation of the Islamic faith, it was alleged.

He spoke of how to “terrorise the enemy” and conjured the image of preparing a scud missile, the court heard.

Extreme interpretation of Islamic faith

The prosecution claim that Choudary knew he was involving himself in guiding a group with a more extreme interpretation of the Islamic faith as he said to listeners that “maybe” they might be monitored by the police, arrested, banned, sent to prison or even “killed for the sake of the religion and the Dawah” but “that goes with the territory, my dear brothers, we know that”.

In a discussion in June 2022 Choudary spoke about the Terrorism Act and was also “effectively promoting Dawah but in a way that seeks to avoid immediate attention”, said Mr Little.

He added that Choudary “obviously cannot overtly say that ITS is ALM publicly”, and “they need to be cautious otherwise the police will intervene”.

In July 2022 Choudary sent a group message to the ITS saying that the link for a series of talks he planned to give was intended “only for you and brothers that you trust”, leaving Mr Little to tell the jury “what had he got to hide if this was no more than just legitimate religious education?”.

In October 2022 Choudary sent a message to the ITS in which the father of a man who was killed by the Americans in a drone strike said “I remember how our spirits as a family was raised right after my son’s martyrdom”.

Mr Little told the jury: “The evidence reveals that Anjem Choudary maintained an interest in, and a desire to promote, extremist views after his release from custody.

“This material also underlines Anjem Choudary’s continued affiliation with ALM and Omar Bakri Mohammed, and demonstrates the role he played whilst Omar Bakri Mohammed was imprisoned – that caretaker role.”

The case continues.