Former beauty queen convicted of funding terrorism after sending jihadi ‘husband’ £35

Lizzie Dearden

A former beauty queen has been found guilty of funding terrorism after sending her online “husband” £35.

Amaani Noor had attempted to join the Islamist fighter in Syria and prosecutors accused her of supporting violent jihad and sharia law.

The 21-year-old told Liverpool Crown Court she had become increasingly religious after breaking up with her ex-boyfriend, who was a Premier League footballer at the time.

She entered beauty competitions and became a finalist in the Miss Teen Great Britain pageant in 2014.

Noor said she had begun to focus on her religion after her relationship with a footballer in the “public eye” ended when she was 18.

She initially underwent a religious wedding ceremony with a Muslim preacher at her home in Wavertree, and they planned to move to Saudi Arabia before the marriage failed.

The court heard that Noor then started discussing extremist organisations with people she met on the internet.

Her trial was read messages between Noor and 28-year-old Victoria Webster, who previously pleaded guilty to three counts of funding terrorism.

Noor, a former performing arts student, accepted some of the views she expressed in them appeared “harder” than views of Isis.

She said she had wanted to find out about the organisations to decide whether or not to support them.

The court heard she “married” her new husband, who communicated with her on the Telegram app using the name Hakim My Love, in a video-link ceremony on her 20th birthday.

Telegram, an encrypted messaging platform, became one of the main hubs for international communications by Isis and other jihadi groups in the Syrian civil war.

In messages, Webster, 28, of Nelson in Lancashire, described the group Noor’s husband fought for as Isis.

But Noor claimed he described himself as an “independent” fighter in Syria and she believed he was fighting for Islam and sharia law.

She had planned to join him, she said, and on the day police searched her house had tickets booked to Turkey.

The court heard Noor made a $45 (£35) donation using the name Margaret Allen to an organisation called The Merciful Hands, via Paypal, in May 2018.

Victoria Webster pleaded guilty to three counts of funding terror (Greater Manchester Police)

She was given the details by Webster, who told her that a fighter in Syria was struggling with debt during Ramadan and needed money for food and supplies.

Noor, who ran an online jewellery business, had never met Webster or her “husband” in person but communicated them with on Telegram.

She claimed she gave the money believing it would be used to buy food for women and children in Syria, but prosecutors said she knew it may be used for terrorist purposes.

Noor was convicted of funding terrorism on Thursday by a majority of 10 to two following three hours and 38 minutes of deliberations.

She sobbed in the dock as the verdict was read out, while her mother left the court crying.

Judge Andrew Menary QC told the jury: “It’s a sad case. You have had an insight now into this very murky and challenging world that some people occupy online where people speak casually about some pretty awful things that are going on.

“A moment’s glance online will tell you Miss Noor was in a relationship with someone in the public eye.

“That person was a professional footballer so her life undoubtedly at some point changed dramatically.”

Ahead of her sentencing on 20 December, Noor was released on bail with conditions including a curfew, an electronic tag and the surrender of her passport.

Jenny Hopkins, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Noor and Webster knew or should have known that their donations may have been used to buy weapons and supplies for terrorists in Syria.

“The jury rejected Noor’s explanation that she only intended the money to be used for humanitarian aid.

“If she genuinely wanted to help those in need there were many reputable groups she could have used but that was never her goal.”

Additional reporting by PA

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