Wednesday, August 10

Police tried to keep identity of gay jihadi secret to protect his human rights



Police and prosecutors attempted to keep the identity and possible homosexuality of a British jihadist a secret to protect his human rights, it can be reported today.

Officers and the Crown Prosecution Service were concerned that should details surrounding Aseel Muthana emerge during a trial of his friends who helped him join Isil it would put his life at risk.

They believed they still had a duty of care under human rights laws to protect the teenager, even though he had run off to join a terror group intent on attacking this country.

The concerns centred on a series of text messages between Muthana, now 19, and Forhad Rahman, 21, who helped pay for him to travel to the war zone in February 2014.

Language in the messages left their “sexuality open to interpretation” after Rahman described Cardiff man Muthana as a “Welsh cutie”.

The pair only met online two months before Muthana left but formed a “profound emotional closeness” and called each other “cutie”, “honey” and “babe” in messages.

With Isil known to murder gay men and women, prosecutors initially discussed the need for reporting restrictions either on Muthana’s name or the details of the messages.

Muthana’s brother Nasser was already in Syria and later appeared in one of Isil’s first propaganda videos in which he encouraged others to join him.

In the end, it could not be ascertained whether Muthana was gay or not and the evidence was not subject to any court order.

But during the preliminary legal argument, a CPS note read: “It is not known what the reaction of ISIS would be if they became of aware of the social media chat that Mr Muthana has entered into with the defendants. It seems unlikely that Mr Muthana would have an opportunity to defend himself in accordance with the standards of this court.”

It said the CPS and police had a “duty” under the Human Rights Act to protect him and that “does not end because Mr Muthana has left the UK or is fighting on behalf of ISIS.”

In a pre-trial briefing, the then assistant chief constable of South Wales Police Nikki Holland, who is now at Merseyside Police, said: “I don’t think it is a case of physically protecting him but he has protection of the law in human rights. He has a right to life. As a police force we protect everyone’s right to life – even a terrorist.”

The discussions were held ahead of the trial of Rahman, Adeel Ulhaq, 21, and Kristen Brekke, 20, at the Old Bailey.

The three men were convicted of helping Muthana travel to Syria.

Rahman and Ulhaq were sentenced to five years for the preparation of terrorist acts, with Ulhaq receiving a further 12 months for terrorism funding.

Brekke was jailed for four-and-a-half years. Rahman, from Cirencester, and Ulhaq, from Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, were part of an online Islamist “fixer” network that helped fanatics go to Syria.

Rahman got a new passport for Muthana and paid for his coach fare to London and flight out of the UK.

Ulhaq provided advice and tips on what to take to Syria and how to get across the border from Turkey.

He also put Muthana in touch with Aqsa Mahmood, a notorious young jihadi bride who travelled to Syria from Glasgow in November 2013.

Ulhaq and Rahman had also previously been in contact with Portsmouth based fanatics, including Ifthekar Jaman, who was killed in Syria in December 2013.

Brekke did not know the other two but was Muthana’s friend in Cardiff and bought military-style clothing for him and held his new passport until he needed it.

The pair also filmed themselves acting out pretend war scenes at night while on a hill in Cardiff, in what prosecutors likened to the comedy film about inept terrorists “Four Lions”.

In one clip, Muthana said he wanted to sing Jihadi nasheeds, or religious songs but could not remember any and instead hummed the theme to the movie Rocky.