Radical UK cleric Anjem Choudary released from prison

The father-of-five Anjem Choudary previously hit the headlines for organizing a pro-Osama bin Laden event in London in 2011. (AFP)
Updated 19 October 2018

Radical UK cleric Anjem Choudary released from prison

  • The 51-year-old Anjem Choudary was jailed for five-and-a-half years in 2016
  • He will serve the rest of his sentence under strict supervision orders

LONDON: Radical cleric Anjem Choudary, a long-time thorn in the side of British authorities, was released from prison on Friday having served half his sentence for encouraging support for Daesh.
The 51-year-old was jailed for five-and-a-half years in 2016, and will serve the rest of his sentence under strict supervision orders having been released from Belmarsh top-security prison in southeast London.
He made no comment to reporters and photographers when leaving a probation hostel in the British capital.
Prisoners in the UK are typically released early but with conditions attached to their activities outside custody.
Choudary is expected to return to his home in Ilford, east London, although he will not be able to use any Internet-enabled devices without permission.
Other restrictions include bans on leaving Britain without permission and on attending certain mosques and he will only be allowed to meet with people approved by the police.
Choudary is the former head in Britain of Islam4UK or Al-MuHajjiroun, a now-banned group co-founded by Omar Bakri Muhammad that called for Islamic law in the UK.
For two decades, the former lawyer of Pakistani descent stayed on the right side of the law, becoming Britain’s most prominent radical preacher.
Among those radicalized by Al-MuHajjiroun were the suicide bombers who killed 52 people on London’s public transport system in July 2005, and the men who murdered soldier Lee Rigby in the capital in 2013, police say.
The court heard that Choudary had broadcast speeches recognizing Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi as the leader of Daesh.
Choudary and his co-defendant Mohammed Rahman were arrested by officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command on September 25, 2014.
Former counter-terror police chief Mark Rowley insisted Friday that Choudary was not “some sort of evil genius.”
“We have to be careful not to overstate his significance,” he told BBC radio.
“At the end of the day, he is a pathetic groomer of others.”
The father-of-five previously hit the headlines for organizing a pro-Osama bin Laden event in London in 2011.
He also belonged to a group that burned poppies, the symbol of remembrance for deaths in war, during an Armistice Day protest in the British capital in 2010.
Prisons Minister Rory Stewart has said he will be watched “very, very carefully” out of jail.


Graft trial for Syrian President Assad’s uncle opens in Paris

Updated 2 min 46 sec ago

Graft trial for Syrian President Assad’s uncle opens in Paris

  • Lawyers for Rifaat Assad cited health problems as the reason for his absence
  • He is dubbed the “Butcher of Hama” for allegedly commanding troops that put down an uprising in central Syria in 1982

PARIS: Syrian President Bashar Assad’s uncle went on trial in Paris Monday on charges of pilfering Syrian state coffers and using the spoils to build a property empire in France.
The dock was empty as the hearing got underway, with lawyers for 82-year-old Rifaat Assad citing health problems as the reason for his absence.
“His doctors have recommended that he avoids all stressful situations,” lawyer Pierre Cornut-Gentille told the Paris court.
Rifaat Assad, dubbed the “Butcher of Hama” for allegedly commanding troops that put down an uprising in central Syria in 1982, has been under investigation in France since 2014.
This year, an investigating magistrate ordered he stand trial on charges of organized money laundering related to his 90-million-euro ($99.5-million) property portfolio in France.
The trial of the younger brother of Syrian ex-president Hafez Assad — the current president’s father — is scheduled to last until December 18.
It concerns crimes allegedly committed between 1984 and 2016, including aggravated tax fraud and misappropriation of Syrian funds.
Assad, who splits his time between France and Britain, denies the charges.
Formerly Syria’s vice president, Assad left his home country in 1984 after mounting a failed coup against his brother Hafez, who led Syria from 1971 to 2000.
After he arrived in Europe, Rifaat Assad’s lavish lifestyle, four wives, and 16 children soon raised eyebrows.
His reported French fortune includes two Paris townhouses, one measuring 3,000 square meters (32,000 square feet), as well as a stud farm, a chateau and 7,300 square meters of office space in Lyon.
He and his family also built up a huge portfolio of 507 properties in Spain, valued at around 695 million euros, Spanish legal documents show. All his properties in that country were seized by the authorities in 2017.
Assad has maintained that his lifestyle was made possible by gifts from the Saudi royal family that amounted to more than a million dollars per month.
But despite documents from Assad’s lawyers meant to justify gifts of almost $25 million between 1984 and 2010, French investigators registered transfers of only $10 million from Saudi Arabia.
This is only the second trial of a foreign dignitary in France on charges related to “ill-gotten gains.”
The first, Equatorial Guinea vice president Teodorin Obiang, received a three-year suspended jail term in October 2017 after being convicted of using public money to fund a jet-set lifestyle in Paris.
Paris has long been a favored destination for the corrupt gains of wealthy figures linked to political leaders in Africa, particularly in France’s former colonies.