Anjem Choudary, who preached hate over two decades with seeming impunity from legal punishment, has been jailed for five years and six months for his activities to support Islamic State.
Choudary was sentenced at the Old Bailey in London after his conviction in July for urging Muslims to support Isis in a series of talks posted on YouTube. He was convicted alongside his acolyte Mohammed Rahman, 33.
The “hate preacher” and Rahman told their supporters to obey Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Isis leader, who is also known as a caliph, and travel to Syria to support “the caliphate”, the trial had heard.
Choudary was a key figure for a succession of Islamist militant groups. He was dismissed as a clown by some, but helped to motivate at least 100 young people to turn to terrorism in Britain and Europe, and made frequent media appearances.
He was a key figure in al-Muhajiroun, which was banned under terrorism legislation and relaunched itself as al-Ghurabaa, only to be banned again. Successor groups were also banned, including Islam4Uk and Muslims Against Crusades.
Choudary’s barrister, Mark Summers QC, said his client regretted breaking the law.
Summers urged the judge, Mr Justice Holroyde, not to sentence Choudary on the basis of his 20 years of notoriety, nor on claims he had indoctrinated “a generation of people to commit direct acts of terrorism”.
He said: “Mr Choudary has done his best to stay within the law, acting on the boundaries of it maybe, but determined to stay within the law.”
Summers painted a picture of a man touched by remorse, facing solitary confinement, and said Choudary would not offend in the future. “He has had time to reflect, and on reflection would have done things differently had he known the boundaries of the law. He is determined not to cross those boundaries in the future.”
Summers said the extremist’s invitations of support for Isis was an intellectual call, not one for violence, and there was no evidence anyone acted on them.
The conviction came after an investigation by Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command. Detectives assessed 20 years’ worth of material held on 333 electronic devices containing 12.1 terabytes of data.
A key plank of the case was an oath of allegiance Choudary swore to the Isis leader.
Between August and September 2014, Choudary and Rahman posted speeches on YouTube encouraging support for Isis. An audio clip, lasting one hour and six minutes and uploaded to Choudary’s YouTube channel on 9 September 2014, was played to jurors.
Titled How Muslims Assess the Legitimacy of the Caliphate, the speech was played over the image of a map of northern Africa, the Middle East, north-west Asia and southern Europe.
Choudary started by setting out his views about the requirements of a legitimate Islamic caliphate, then explains why he sees Islamic State as meeting the criteria. “The lesson from this narration is that obedience to the caliph is an obligation, if they rule by the sharia. And to obey them obviously means they must be established,” Choudary said.
Choudary trained as a lawyer and described himself as a student of Omar Bakri Mohammed, an extremist who fled Britain in 2005