UK government aims to close loophole in anti-terror laws


The UK government is looking at closing a loophole in the anti-terror laws that allowed the early release of Pakistani-origin radical Islamist preacher, Anjem Choudary, from the jail earlier this week, according to media reports Sunday.

The release of Choudary after serving just half of his five-and-a-half-year sentence for inciting support for the Islamic State (IS) terror group had led to UK security minister Ben Wallace’s assurance that “jihadists convicted of inviting support for terrorist groups such as ISIS would no longer be eligible for such an early release”, The Sunday Times reported.

The 51-year-old preacher was charged with one of the few terror offences that prohibits a UK judge from imposing an “extended determinate sentence” (EDS), which allows a “dangerous” offender to be kept inside jail beyond the halfway point of his sentence.

Responding to his release, Wallace said that the offence Choudary had committed would be brought “within the scope” of the EDS regime, the report said.

Choudary was freed from the London’s high-security Belmarsh jail on Friday for reported “good behaviour” and moved to a bail hostel under 25 strict conditions on his movement and interactions with the outside world.

There was widespread outrage that the so-called “preacher of hate”, whose followers have been linked with the London Bridge terror attack in June last year and included Indian-origin ISIS fighter Siddhartha Dhar, was released so early.

It has since emerged that 35-year-old Dhar, a former salesman from Walthamstow in east London who converted to Islam and became known as Abu Rumaysah, has been killed in Syria.

Dhar, one Choudary’s key followers, had gained notoriety by appearing in an ISIS video in 2016 in which he shot a prisoner in the back of the head while making threats to David Cameron, then British Prime Minister.

When Justice Holroyde sentenced Choudary at the Old Bailey court in London September 2016, he said he thought the cleric would continue to spread his poisonous ideology, but added that he had “no power to impose an extended sentence”.

According to a report in ‘The Sunday Telegraph’, the UK-born preacher has been shunned by many of the imams across London’s mosques since his release.

Choudary is only permitted to attend a single place of worship that has been approved by officials from the UK’s Ministry of Justice.

He was asked to submit a list of mosques he wished to visit, but when they were approached by the UK authorities asking if they objected to him attending, many of the imams said he would not be welcome.

“As part of his strict licensing conditions, Choudary is only permitted to attend one mosque that has been given prior approval,” a source told the newspaper.

“He was asked to submit a list of his preferred options and then they were asked if they would be willing to accommodate him. However, it was clear that many of the mosques he wanted to visit did not want him mixing with their worshippers,” the source added.

The father of five is understood to have applied for state-funded legal aid to try to fight the strict 25 rules that limit his movements and actions while serving the rest of his prison term outside jail. They include wearing an electronic tag, monitoring of whom he can associate with, not being allowed the use of the internet or speak to anyone aged under 18.

It is believed that the human rights law firm Birnberg Peirce, who are acting for him, has written to the Ministry of Justice claiming the restrictions breach his human rights.

If Choudary is held in breach of any of the conditions, he will be returned to prison to complete the remaining half of his five-and-a-half-year sentence for pledging an oath of allegiance to IS behind bars.

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