Anjem Choudary free to preach again as he gives first public statement since release from prison

Anjem Choudary is free to preach once again after the ban on him speaking in public was lifted as licence conditions which were imposed after his release from prison came to an end.

The 54-year-old delivered his first public speech on Monday afternoon – his first since leaving prison.

The extremist was jailed five years ago after being convicted of inviting support for the Islamic State terror group, and he left Belmarsh high-security jail on licence in 2018.

Choudary, from Ilford in east London, was freed automatically half-way through a five-and-a-half year sentence.

A string of more than 20 strict licence conditions which Choudary has been subject to since his release expired on Monday, and he talked to a handful of reporters in a square near his east London home.

None of his acolytes were with him on Monday afternoon, and he was heckled by a passing member of the community who shouted "You don’t speak for us."

Anjem Choudary gives his first speech since leaving prison

Credit: David Rose for The Telegraph

Choudary remained undeterred from the hostile interruption and said: "The only difference is I have the fortitude to speak the truth. I like to invite people to Islam, I think it’s a noble thing to do."

He protested his innocence, insisting he was a "prisoner of faith" and said: "I don’t believe that someone like me can ever have a fair trial. So don’t read too much into the fact that I’ve been convicted of this or that.

"I’m just a normal, everybody Muslim. I’m a family man, I’m a father, I have a mother. 

"If you were to walk up here and speak to many of the people in the shops, they know me personally, they know me in the mosques around here. I don’t think anybody would really have a bad thing to say about me."

As well as being prohibited from speaking in public, his internet and mobile phone use was restricted and he was banned from being in contact with people who may be suspected of extremist-related offences without prior approval.

He had to wear an electronic tag and abide by a night-time curfew, only attend pre-approved mosques and stay within a set area, as well as adhere to other standard requirements, like having regular meetings with probation officers.

Police and MI5 were thought to be among a host of bodies involved in monitoring him under the system known as multi-agency public protection arrangements (Mappa).

Separate measures saw his name added to a UN sanctions list, which meant he was banned from travelling and had assets frozen.

Once a leading figure in the now-banned group al-Muhajiroun (ALM), the former solicitor had previously stayed on the right side of the law for years – despite being seen as a radicalising influence.

From the 1990s, the father-of-five was a prominent figure in ALM, which also operated under a number of other names.

Over 20 years he voiced controversial views on Sharia law while building up a following of thousands through social media, demonstrations and lectures around the world.

While there has been no suggestion Choudary organised any attacks, others previously linked to ALM include Michael Adebolajo, one of the murderers of Fusilier Lee Rigby, and Khuram Butt, the ringleader of the London Bridge terror attack.

During his teenage years the Fishmongers’ Hall attacker Usman Khan also took an interest in Choudary’s views.

Muslim convert Lewis Ludlow, who plotted a terror attack on Oxford Street, attended a demonstration led by Choudary and the ALM group.

But former head of counter-terror policing Mark Rowley previously said Choudary was not "some sort of evil genius", dismissing him as a "pathetic groomer" during an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

"I think we have to be careful not to overstate his significance," he added.

Whether counter-terror police and MI5 will continue to track Choudary or consider him a person of interest has not been confirmed. But ALM is expected to remain of considerable interest.

Other measures available to security services and police which could be considered in such instances are Tpims (Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures). They are seen as the strictest monitoring tool available to use against people suspected to be involved in terrorism or who present a threat, but cannot be prosecuted or deported.

A Tpim notice – which can be in place for up to two years – can involve conditions like an enforced curfew, tagging, having to stay away from certain locations and restrictions on overseas travel.

A senior security source said: "Disruptive measures – including jail terms and licence conditions – have had a substantial impact on the ability of ALM to propagate their toxic ideology.

"While the group cynically preys on vulnerable individuals, its spokespeople have hidden behind their cult-like status while encouraging others to commit acts of violence. The group breeds on propaganda, and should be starved of the oxygen of publicity it relies on to spread hatred."

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