Anjem Choudary ‘Filled the Void’ at Top of Terrorist Group After Leader Jailed, Jury Told

Radical Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary has gone on trial at Woolwich Crown Court accused of being a member of the proscribed organisation al-Muhajiroun.
Anjem Choudary ‘Filled the Void’ at Top of Terrorist Group After Leader Jailed, Jury Told
Anjem Choudary speaks after prayers at the Central London Mosque in Regent's Park on April 3, 2015. (Tim Ireland, File/AP Photo)
Chris Summers

WOOLWICH, London—Radical preacher Anjem Choudary “filled the void” and became the caretaker leader of a terrorist organisation after its “spiritual leader” was jailed in Lebanon, a trial has heard.

A jury at Woolwich Crown Court was told he resumed his role at the head of al-Muhajiroun (ALM) after he was released from prison after being convicted of supporting the ISIS terrorist group.

Mr. Choudary, 57, denies being a member of a proscribed organisation and addressing meetings to encourage support for the group. He also denies directing a terrorist organisation.

His co-defendant, Khaled Hussein, 29, from Edmonton, Canada, has denied membership of ALM.

Prosecutor Tom Little, KC told the jury on Thursday, Mr. Choudary “filled the void” at the top of ALM while the group’s “spiritual leader,” Omar Bakri Mohammed, was in prison in Lebanon between 2014 and March 2023.

Mr. Choudary was released from prison in relation to the ISIS offence on Oct. 19, 2018 and was on licence until July 18, 2021.

He said: “Those licence conditions placed something of a restriction on him. However, once released from licence he encouraged support for the terrorist organisation of which he had been a long-term member, namely ALM, and over which for some years he had directed.”

Mr. Little said: “The conviction undoubtedly made him more cautious in who he would speak to openly. However, his desire to further the aims of ALM caused even him sometimes to let down his guard.”

The prosecutor said a covert recording device was placed in Mr. Choudary’s home in Ilford, east London and he said the jury would hear some of the recordings which it produced.

He said the evidence suggests Mr. Choudary had been a member of ALM for many years and “also directed that terrorist organisation for a significant period of time from 2014 onwards.”

Mr. Little said Mr. Choudary also addressed online meetings of the Islamic Thinkers Society (ITS), which he described as being ALM’s branch in the United States.

ALM’s ‘US Branch’ Infiltrated by Law Enforcement

He said the ITS, which was based in New York, was “part and parcel of the same terrorist organisation.”

Mr. Little said ITS was infiltrated by two undercover operatives from U.S. law enforcement agencies, who will be known as OP488 and OP377.

He said: “They were present at a number of classes and lectures given online by Anjem Choudary to members of ITS.”

“They were able to record many of the classes and lectures which each attended. These recordings were passed from U.S. law enforcement to counter-terrorism officers in the Metropolitan Police,” he added.

The prosecutor said ALM was originally known al-Ghurabaa, or The Saved Sect, until it was proscribed by the then-Home Secretary John Reid in 2006.

He said the group’s name later changed to ALM and in January 2010 it was banned under that name too, and in 2011 it was also banned under the guise of Muslims Against Crusades.

Mr. Little told the jury, “Those involved may use different names for an organisation over time in order to try to distance themselves from the organisation that has been banned.”

Muslim cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed gestures while talking to the media, in Beirut, Lebanon, on Sept. 5, 2005. (Hussein Malla, File/AP Photo)
Muslim cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed gestures while talking to the media, in Beirut, Lebanon, on Sept. 5, 2005. (Hussein Malla, File/AP Photo)

He said Omar Bakri Mohammed left Britain in 2005 but before he left he was seen in the company of Mr. Choudary and others.

Mr. Little showed the jury an image of some of the group demonstrating outside the Danish Embassy in London in 2004.

He said another individual who appeared to have been influenced by ALM was Michael Adebolajo, who was later convicted of the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in 2013.

Sought to ‘Foist a Warped and Twisted View of Religion’ on Others

Mr. Little said: “Loyalties of some in the group may wax and wane over time but at the end of the day the aim of such an organisation is not peaceful. Instead they seek, as here, to spread and foist a warped and twisted view of religion on to others.”

“Terrorist organisations, for reasons that you may think are obvious, may lurk in the shadows seeking to avoid detection, investigation, and prosecution,” he added.

“They try to stay hidden or they may even give the impression that they are no longer active or they may want some people to think that they are no longer associating with others with a terrorist cause. It is in the interests of a terrorist organisation to move and to develop undetected,” added Mr. Little.

Mr. Little said, “False information may be provided publicly to put people off the scent about what the organisation is all about.”

“During the period that you will be considering ALM was not always active. There were times when arrests and interventions limited what they were able to do. However, Anjem Choudary never gave up. He, we say, just bided his time,” he added.

Mr. Little said Mr. Hussein—who was also known as Abu Aisha Al Kanadi—was a “follower and dedicated supporter of Anjem Choudary and all he stood for.”

He said Mr. Hussein “respected if not idolised” Mr. Choudary, and “would do whatever he was asked to by him.”

Mr. Choudary was arrested in London by counter-terrorism detectives on July 17, 2023 and Mr. Hussein was arrested the same day when he got off a plane at Heathrow airport.

Mr. Little will conclude his opening statement on Friday.

Both defendants have pleaded not guilty and both will get an opportunity to put their defence case later in the trial.

The trial is expected to last for at least six weeks.

Chris Summers is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in crime, policing and the law.