Anjem Choudary Snared by Indonesian Oath

The Metropolitan Police announce:

Two men have been convicted of encouraging support for the proscribed terrorist organisation Islamic State.

Anjem Choudary and Mohammed Mizanur Rahman were found guilty on 28 July following a trial at the Old Bailey.

At a meeting in a restaurant on the 2 July 2014, during which Choudary and Rahman contacted Mohammed Fachry, a convicted terrorist, in Indonesia via Skype, text and phone, the pair pledged their allegiance to ISIS and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Fachry then published this oath, having been signed off by Choudary, on an Indonesian website.

Choudary and Rahman were arrested by officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command on 25 September 2014.

This is front-page news in the UK, and so there isn’t much to add here. However, it is worth noting that the 2014 arrest came just one day after the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) published a report by Sidney Jones on The Evolution of ISIS in Indonesia, which was reported at the time by Channel 4 News.

I doubt there was a direct connection, but the timing is remarkable: the report includes details of how Fachry set up Sharia4Indonesia on a model inspired by Choudary, and discusses pro-ISIS oaths:

As part of its campaign to win public support, FAKSI [Fachry’s Forum of Islamic Law Activists] began organising public declarations of support for ISIS… Before April 2014, these initial pro-ISIS programs did not involve formal loyalty oaths. On 16 April 2014, however, Aman Abdurrahman made an online pledge.

That oath was apparently published in English on a now-deleted blog called Prisoner of Joy.

Choudary’s own oath appeared online in July; Court News UK has the details:

At 9pm, Choudary sent a WhatsApp message to his wife that said: ‘Done’ before posting a Twitter message to his followers.

On 7 July, an Oath of Allegiance appeared on the website in Indonesian and Arabic, which included Choudary and Rahman’s ‘kunyas’ or Islamic names – Abu Luqman, used by Choudary, and Abu Baraa, used by Rahman.

It was also signed in the names Abu Yahya and Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed.

The Metropolitan Police statement continues with a quote attributed to Dean Haydon, Head of the MPS Counter Terrorism Command:

The oath of allegiance was a turning point for the police – at last we had the evidence that they had stepped over the line and we could prove they supported ISIS

Our well established international contacts ensured that we were able to obtain key evidence from the Indonesian authorities to prove that Choudary and Rahman were key in the publication of their oath of allegiance.

There has been speculation over the years that Choudary was allowed to remain free because he served as a “clerical honeypot” (see Shiraz Maher here) whose activities made the surveillance of extremists easier. However, Haydon’s “at last we had the evidence” comment clearly asserts that this was not the case, and that the police have been wanting to move against him for a long time. The BBC has an interview with David Anderson QC, the UK government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, in which he says that it “is not as easy to get convictions under these laws as it should be”.

[UPDATE: Haydon’s statement also needs to be considered in the context of a later report that there was a difference of opinion between police and MI5:

Met counter-terror officers often felt they enough evidence to build a case against the radicalising cleric, only to be told to hang fire by MI5, because he was crucial to one of their on-going investigations, a source has claimed.

The situation led to tension between the two sides with police feeling “frustrated” that Choudary was not being brought to justice, the source added.]

The announcement of Choudary’s conviction has also brought renewed complaints that the media has given him too much of a platform over the years; here’s Charlie Brooker’s ever-pertinent analysis from 2010: