Britain’s most notorious hate preacher was in jail last night after two decades of taunting authorities and peddling extremism on the streets of Britain.
For years, Anjem Choudary has been the smug public face of radical Islam, organising street protests against British troops and espousing his poisonous views in TV interviews.
He is believed to have inspired at least 110 Britons into committing terrorist acts.
Police also think he helped encourage up to 850 fanatics to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS.
His now-banned radical group has links to 15 terror plots, including the murder of Lee Rigby and the 7/7 attacks.
The father-of-five and his family also milked hundreds of thousands of pounds from the benefits system.
But he was finally snared by police for inciting support for ISIS in a series of online lectures.
Choudary has repeatedly provoked the British public with a series of stunts in which his followers burned remembrance poppies and disrupted Armistice Day events.
He also called for Buckingham Palace to be turned into a mosque and paraded a picture of his vision which was made by a man now fighting for ISIS.
His group, Al-Muhajiroun, became a breeding ground for terrorists, most notably Michael Adebolajo, the radical convert who hacked to death soldier Lee Rigby in 2013.
After a trial which has been shrouded in secrecy, Choudary and his deputy, Mizanur Rahman, were found guilty of ‘inviting support for a proscribed organisation’ under the Terrorism Act 2000.
He now faces up to 10 years in prison, although judge Mr Justice Holroyde admitted there is little precedent for sentencing him.
Anti-terror police investigated 20 years worth of material, with over 333 electronic devices containing 12 terabytes of storage data analysed.
Following the lifting of court orders banning reporting of the case, their convictions can be revealed for the first time today.
Their trial heard Choudary swore an oath of allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an East London pub after the so-called ‘caliphate’ was declared in the Middle East.
He and his deputy then pressed upon Muslims their supposed obligation to ‘make hijrah’, meaning to travel to ISIS-occupied lands, the court heard.
In Choudary’s incendiary speeches, he told his followers ISIS had met the theological conditions for a legitimate caliphate.
Choudary said: ‘We initiate the jihad against the kuffar [disbelievers] to make the name of Allah in the highest. He never considered defending yourself part of jihad. He said you need to send in the army… It is about time we resumed conquering for the sake of Allah.
‘Next time when your child is at school and the teacher asks, ‘What is your ambition?’ They should say, ‘to dominate the whole world by Islam, including Britain, that is my ambition”.
At a time when the ISIS executioner Jihadi John was beheading hostages and posting the videos online, Choudary quoted a saying of the Prophet: ‘Whoever comes to dispute with him, strike his neck.’
Choudary referred to ISIS propaganda videos, and particularly to cutting off the hands of thieves, stoning adulterers and executing apostates, before adding: ‘We can see that in relation to all of the different areas the sharia is being implemented.’
Choudary, who had been optimistic about his chances of being acquitted at his Old Bailey trial, folded his arms and did not react when the jury returned their guilty verdict.
Choudary’s conviction comes after a two-year, multi-million pound investigation by Scotland Yard designed to bring to an end his two decades of extremist preaching.
Born in south-east London to a market stall-holder, he used to be a hard drinking student at Southampton University who indulged in casual sex, porn and experimented with LSD and cannabis.
But he joined Al-Muhajiroun after falling under the spell of founder Omar Bakri Mohammed, the notorious preacher who praised the 9/11 attack and hailed the London 7 July bombers the ‘Fantastic Four’.
His band of rabble-rousers rose to prominence in 2006 protesting against Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
This was followed by protests at parades for soldiers returning from Afghanistan, burning poppies and screaming insults during a two-minute silence on Armistice Day in November 2010.
From Choudary’s secret headquarters hidden in the cellar of a sweet shop run by his family in London’s East End, he spread his vile ideology to his tens of thousands of followers on Facebook, YouTube, What’s App and Twitter.
Research by the Henry Jackson Society thinktank shows that almost one quarter of offenders convicted of Islamist-inspired terrorism-related offences in the UK since 1999 had direct links to Al-Muhajiroun or its many aliases. One in ten had a personal relationship with Choudary.
But, using his legal training as a solicitor and forensic understanding of terrorism legislation, Choudary always managed to dodge prosecution, playing cat and mouse with police and MI5.
Tens of millions of pounds was spent investigating him.
Choudary’s seemingly untouchable status sparked rumours that he was deliberately being allowed to go free, so that counter-terrorism investigators could use him as a honeypot to catch supporters.
However, it was shortly after IS was made illegal in June 2014 that Choudary made his crucial mistake.
On July 7 of that year, the preacher and his disciple Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, 33, signed an oath of allegiance to IS which was posted on the internet.
Choudary was arrested two months later but his month-long trial at the Old Bailey has been shrouded in secrecy due to a linked case being held in the same building involving Choudary’s associates,
That came to an end yesterday when Mohammed Alamgir, Yousaf Bashir and Rajib Khan were convicted of encouraging support for IS.
Choudary and Rahman will be sentenced on September 6.
The authorities fear he will radicalise a new following behind bars.
Irfan Chishti, imam of Manchester Central Mosque, said: ‘British Muslims across the UK welcome this verdict. The community has been unanimous in its rejection of these individuals and everything they stand for.’
Speaking after the verdicts, Commander Dean Haydon, head of SO15, Scotland Yard’s Counter-terrorism Command, said Choudary and his followers had been a ‘dangerous force for radicalisation and recruitment’ both of extremists and terrorists in Britain.
He added: ‘These men have stayed just within the law for many years, but there is no one within the counter terrorism world that has any doubts of the influence that they have had, the hate they have spread and the people that they have encouraged to join terrorist organisations.
‘Over and over again we have seen people on trial for the most serious offences who have attended lectures or speeches given by these men.
‘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.’
Nick Lowles, chief executive of the anti-racism group Hope Not Hate, said Choudary had influenced over 100 Britons who have carried out, or attempted to carry out, terrorist attacks at home and abroad.
‘Justice has been a long time coming,’ he said. ‘For far too long, Anjem Choudary has played a key role as a cheerleader for ISIS, and been allowed to demonise the Muslim community.
‘He clearly promoted the disgusting and divisive ideals of the Islamic State, while dozens of his supporters have been connected to terrorist plots, violence or heading overseas to fight in Syria, Iraq and other conflicts. Finally Choudary can now pay for his actions.’
The hate-filled circle around Anjem Choudary has been a breeding ground for the Islamic extremism which has plagued Britain in the last two decades.
Former law-student Choudary, who previously called for adulterers to be stoned to death and branded UK troops ‘cowards’, has always hidden behind free speech rules whenever challenged by the authorities.
But the group he helped to set up have been linked to a series of terrorist attacks, as easily-influenced young men became inspired by his twisted vision of jihad.
The best known of his disciples was Muslim convert Michael Adebolajo, who, along with Michael Adebowale, attacked Fusilier Lee Rigby with a meat cleaver in Woolwich in 2013 in a murder which shocked the country.
Adebolajo was a supporter of Choudary’s al-Muhajiroun group and was pictured standing behind the hate preacher in 2007.
After the incident, Choudary said Adebolajo was ‘a practising Muslim and a family man’ who he was ‘proud of’.
But he denied encouraging the killer to carry out the attack, insisting he was ‘channeling the energy of the youth through demonstrations and processions’.
Choudary’s own conversion to fundamentalist Islam is thought to have happened around the time he left university.
The son of a Pakistani market trader from Welling, south east London, Choudary studied law at Southampton University after dropping out of a medical course.
Fellow students recalled him drinking cider, enjoying casual sex, smoking cannabis and even taking LSD, despite insisting he was a Muslim.
The only sign of activism came in his upset over Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses, which some Muslims believed to be blasphemous.
But after moving back to London when his studies ended, Choudary met Islamist firebrand Omar Bakri Muhammad at a mosque in Woolwich and quickly fell under his spell.
Bakri, a Syrian who came to Britain in the 1980s, had set up a sharia court in the UK and Choudary became his ‘naqib’ or assistant.
Bakri, who celebrated the 9/11 attacks as a ‘Towering Day in History’, formed the group al-Muhajiroun, meaning ‘the foreigners’, in the 1990s and Choudary was soon a key lieutenant.
The government repeatedly tried to ban the organisation, leading them to adopt a number of different names, including Al Ghurabaa, Islam4UK, Muslims Against Crusades, Need4Khilafah and the Shariah Project. There are still however referred to by their original name.
In a rhetorical trick later copied by Choudary, Bakri insisted a ‘covenant of security’ existed which meant Muslims should not attack the UK if authorities did not restrict their freedom to practice their religion.
But, in 2004, a group of followers was arrested in Crawley, West Sussex, and accused of planning a massive bomb attack in central London.
In the wake of the 7/7 bombings in London, whose perpetrators Bakri hailed as ‘the fantastic four’, Bakri left for Lebanon and the British government quickly moved to prevent him coming back.
In his absence, Choudary became his heir apparent and set about organising a number of stunts seemingly designed to cause maximum offence to the British public and gain media attention.
A 40-strong group burned a giant poppy and screamed insults during a two minute silence near the Royal Albert Hall on Armistice Day in November 2010.
Members of the group were seen holding placards reading ‘British soldiers burn in hell’ and ‘Afghanistan: The graveyard of empires’.
They re-recreated a picture of Buckingham Palace as a mosque and threatened to protest as the bodies of servicemen were repatriated from Afghanistan to Wootton Bassett, where local people had taken to lining the street as a mark of respect.
Choudary was also recorded telling his followers to claim benefits, which he dubbed the ‘jihad seeker’s allowance’.
But amid Choudary obvious attempts to inflame public opinion, followers of Muhajiroun were caught plotting far more sinister acts.
In December 2012, three young converts began a vigilante group called ‘Muslim Patrol’ and roamed east London at night threatening, intimidating and even assaulting members of the public who they perceived to be behaving in an un-Islamic manner.
Three Muhajiroun followers also firebombed the home of the publisher of a controversial novel about the Prophet Mohammed in September 2008.
Four Muhajiroun supporters from London and Cardiff, led by Mohammed Chowdhury, began planning a Christmas car bomb attack on the London Stock Exchange in 2010.
The Syrian civil war, which provided a vacuum into which ISIS moved, further stoked up radicalism among the group.
Mohammed Reza Haque, thought of as Choudary’s bodyguard, disappeared from Britain in 2014.
A photograph taken in Syria showed him in a balaclava and camouflage clothing, brandishing an AK-47 assault rifle and he has since been suspected as being a tall figure in ISIS’s horrific execution films.
Siddhartha Dhar, who once ran Choudary’s media operation, was also seen posing in a military style coat and boots, brandishing an assault rifle and holding his new born baby in Syria, labelling the picture ‘Generation Khilafah’.
In December 2014, two other close associates were discovered in the back of a lorry at Dover as they tried to leave the country.
Simon Keeler and Anthony Small–a former British boxing champion–were later cleared of attempting to travel to Syria by a jury after they gave a variety of reasons for their need to leave the country without their passports.
After Choudary’s high-profile calls for law and an Islamic Britain, it has been the rise of ISIS which has led to his undoing.
In October 2014, Choudary said in an interview that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was ‘the Caliph of all Muslims and the Prince of the Believers.’
He was arrested two weeks later along with eight members of his inner circle and now faces jail for inviting support for the terror group.
Swigging pints of beer and grinning as a friend holds up a soft porn magazine, this was hate preacher Anjem Choudary when he was known as ‘Andy’, the ladies’ man law student.
Before Choudary grew his trademark beard and embraced fundamentalism, he was a typical laddish student, who had a string of white girlfriends and could down a pint of cider in just a few seconds.
Choudary, now 49, the son of a market trader from Welling, South East London, had initially studied medicine at St Bartholomew’s medical school in central London.
At the end of his first year, he switched to studying law at Southampton University, saying he was ‘disillusioned’ with medicine.
And he appeared to be very much one of the student crowd, calling himself ‘Andy,’ drinking, indulging in casual sex, smoking cannabis and even taking LSD.
One former acquaintance said: ‘At parties, like the rest of us, he was rarely without a joint. The morning after one party, I can remember him getting all the roaches [butts] from the spliffs we had smoked the night before out of the ashtrays, cutting them up and making a new one out of the leftovers.
‘He would say he was a Muslim and was proud of his Pakistani heritage, but he didn’t seem to attend any of the mosques in Southampton, and I only knew of him having white girlfriends. He certainly shared a bed with them.’
The only sign of activism from Choudary came in his upset over Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses, which was said to be blasphemous and led to protests in Bradford and a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death from the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran in 1989.
‘You didn’t want to get him started on that. He would go on and on about the fatwa and he supported calls for the book to be banned. But he would have a glass of cider in his hand when he was carrying on about it,’ the friend said.
After university, Choudary studied for the legal practice exams at Guildford School of Law in Surrey between 1990 and 1991.
He got a job teaching English as a foreign language in one of the many colleges off Oxford Street before setting up on his own as a lawyer.
Pictures taken during his student days show the cleric drinking lager and cider, playing drinking games, and holding what looks like a cannabis joint between his lips.
He is also seen grinning, while a friend holds up a copy of the Mayfair pornographic magazine.
Speaking in 2010 when the photographs first emerged, another former friend had told The Daily Mail: ‘I can’t keep a straight face when I see ‘fundamentalist Muslim Anjem Choudary’ in the papers attacking the British for drinking or having girlfriends.
‘When I knew him, he liked to be called Andy, would often smoke cannabis spliffs all day, and was proud of his ability to down a pint of cider in a couple of seconds.
‘And he was ruthless with girls. When he briefly worked as an English teacher for foreign students in London, he’d pull one of them every few days, sleep with her, then move on to another.
‘If Sharia law was introduced, he would have been whipped and stoned to death many times over.’
It was after Choudary qualified as a solicitor, that he swiftly moved into ever more radical Islam, with former acquaintances suggesting this was possibly because he was angered by his failure to land a well-paid job with a big City law firm.
He had met Omar Bakri Muhammad at a mosque in Woolwich, south east London, and quickly fell under his spell.
He also mixed with hook-handed demagogue Abu Hamza, who once called for bomb attacks on British civilian aircraft at a meeting chaired by Choudary.
‘If British means adopting British values, then I don’t think we can adopt British values. I’m a Muslim living in Britain. I have a British passport, but that’s a travel document to me,’ he said later.
‘I had become much more religiously active,’ Choudary explained.