London: A UK-based radical preacher, known for his radical views, has been found guilty of supporting the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group and faces up to 10 years in jail, it emerged on Tuesday.
Anjem Choudary was convicted at the Old Bailey court in London on 28 July but the judge had imposed a reporting ban while a linked trial of Choudary's associate was ongoing.
"You have been convicted by the jury of offences which you must expect to result in sentences of imprisonment," Justice Holroyd told the 49-year-old preacher.
"It is true that you have complied with the conditions of your bail. I am afraid however, it has been an evidently grudging compliance and you have made your disregard for the court and its processes abundantly plain throughout these proceedings," the judge said.
Choudary and his co-defendant, Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, 33, were found guilty of telling their supporters to obey IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and travel to Syria to support Islamic State or the so-called "caliphate".
The duo face up to 10 years in jail for inviting support for a proscribed outfit and will be sentenced on September 6.
"Terrorist organisations thrive and grow because people support them and that is what this case is about. Do not confuse that with the right of people to follow the religion of their choice or to proclaim support for a caliphate," Prosecutor Richard Whittam told the trial.
London-born Choudary, who has a long history with groups involved in radical Islamist demonstrations in the UK, such as the now-banned Al Muhajiroun and Islam4UK, denied he was inviting support for IS and claimed to be a "lecturer in Sharia law" giving "the Islamic perspective".
Just before his conviction, he told Sky News: "If you look at my speeches, I have said the same thing for 20 years. For me, it is a matter of worship.
"If people are implementing the Sharia, then I cannot shy away from what the divine text says in relationship to that. If you cannot say when you believe in something and you cannot share that view, then you don't really have freedom to express yourself in this country."
Choudary's conviction comes after a two-year, multi-million-pound investigation by Scotland Yard designed to bring to an end his two decades of extremist preaching. He had been arrested last year and been in and out of prison after breaching his bail conditions.
Commander Dean Haydon, head of Scotland Yard’s counter terrorism command said: "We have a key individual here in the UK posting vast amounts of information on social media that is radicalising individuals in the UK. Part of that information encourages them to travel to Syria. His mistake was pledging an oath of allegiance. That was the key piece of evidence that tipped him over the line for a terrorist offence."
Among Choudary's many UK followers is Indian-origin IS fighter Siddhartha Dhar dubbed as 'Jihadi Sid' by the UK media and now believed to be among the senior IS commanders.
One of the Bangladeshi attackers, who killed 22 people during an assualt on a Dhaka cafe on 1 July, was also a follower of Choudary on social media.