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Radical Cleric Anjem Choudary Convicted Of Inciting Support For ISIS


An Islamist cleric in London now faces up to 10 years in prison. Preacher Anjem Choudary was accused of encouraging hundreds of Muslims to join jihad. A jury convicted him on the charge of inviting support for a terrorist group, in this case ISIS. NPR's Frank Langfitt reports from London.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Anjem Choudary preached on the streets here with a bullhorn or from his home in online videos, espousing radical Islam for some two decades. Speaking at a conference several years back, he insisted Sharia law would come to rule nations across the globe.


ANJEM CHOUDARY: The whole world one day, my dear brothers, will be under the Sharia, including Hackney and Walthamstow and Moscow and New York. We have a very bright future, my dear Muslims.

LANGFITT: What made Choudary stand out is how many of his followers worked for that ultimate goal through violence.

RAFFAELLO PANTUCCI: The interesting thing about Anjem Choudary is that he becomes a kind of golden thread that you can pass through numerous terrorist plots and networks in the United Kingdom.

LANGFITT: Raffaello Pantucci directs International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute here. He spoke over Skype.

PANTUCCI: The most prominent recent case you could point to is the murder of Lee Rigby in 2013.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: A man thought to be a British soldier was hit by a car on a London street today. Then two attackers brutally hacked him to death.

LANGFITT: That's how CNN reported the event. One of the attackers, a man named Michael Adebolajo, walked about afterward carrying a bloody meat cleaver and issued this message to a passerby who recorded it on his cell phone.


MICHAEL ADEBOLAJO: We swear by the almighty Allah. We will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. We must fight them as they fight us - an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

LANGFITT: Again, Raffaello Pantucci, the terrorism specialist...

PANTUCCI: Michael Adebolajo, the leader of that pair, was a man who was very regular feature of Anjem Choudary's sort of community. He was very involved in that group, and he showed up at protests with him for a very long time.

LANGFITT: Choudary admitted he knew Adebolajo, but he denied recruiting terrorists to fight overseas or promoting violent attacks here in the U.K. Choudary pressed this point on "60 Minutes" in 2014.


CHOUDARY: There are no examples of anyone in fact who is in any of the battlefronts who actually say, well, actually Mr. Choudary asked me to come here or he bought my ticket. There is a report out recently which said that I supplied 500 people in fact to carry out operations here and abroad. And if that were really the case, don't you think that I'd be arrested and I'd be sitting in prison?

LANGFITT: Within a week of that interview, Choudary was behind bars. For years the preacher had carefully chosen his words to avoid violating British law, but his decision to pledge allegiance to ISIS and publication of that pledge online gave police what they needed to charge him.

HANNAH STUART: Pledging allegiance to Islamic State - that was his - ultimately his downfall.

LANGFITT: Hannah Stuart studies terrorism at the Henry Jackson Society, a London think tank. She says putting Choudary in jail helps.

What do you think the impact of his conviction is going to be?

STUART: I think sadly it's going to be limited, I think, in the sense that for Choudary, certainly a lot of the damage that he's done, you know, has already been done.

LANGFITT: Raffaello Pantucci says taking Choudary off the streets will hurt the drive to radicalize British Muslims but could also create new dangers.

PANTUCCI: He's a charismatic figure who is now going into prison where he will be surrounded by people who are, you know, vulnerable and who are at difficult points in their lives. And I think there's a huge question around what kind of damage he might be able to do within a prison context of radicalizing others.

LANGFITT: Pantucci says stopping Choudary from spreading his message behind bars will be a big challenge for whoever runs the prison where the cleric ends up. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.