A prominent Islamist preacher in Britain faces up to 10 years in prison after he was convicted in July of inviting support for ISIS – a verdict that was only made public Tuesday after a judicially-imposed reporting ban.
Anjem Choudary, a 49-year-old preacher notable for frequent sparring sessions on Fox News’ “Hannity,” was convicted at Old Bailey after he swore an oath of allegiance to ISIS and encouraged others to support the group, Sky News reported. He’s set to be sentenced in September.
Choudary praised Usama bin Laden after the Sept. 11 attacks and the 2005 London transport system bombings. He’s also been closely linked to one of the two Islamic extremists who killed British soldier Lee Rigby in 2013.
“If people are implementing the Sharia, then I cannot shy away from what the divine text says in relationship to that,” Choudary told Sky News the night before he was found guilty. “If you cannot say when you believe in something and you cannot share that view, then you don’t really have freedom to express yourself in this county.”
It took a jury fewer than three days of deliberation to convict Choudary and co-defendant Mizanur Rahman, 32. But the verdict was kept under wraps due to another trial to which Choudary was connected.
Prosecutors drew a distinction between Choudary simply expressing a preference for ISIS and his actively encouraging others to join and support it.
“Terrorist organizations thrive and grow because people support them and that is what this case is about,” prosecutor Richard Whittam QC said, The Guardian reported. “Do not confuse that with the right of people to follow the religion of their choice or to proclaim support for a caliphate.”
Choudary swore allegiance to ISIS just three days after leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi established the so-called caliphate in portions of Syria and Iraq in June 2014. Choudary later posted messages of support for the terror group on social media and in YouTube videos.