A BRADFORD lorry driver has been jailed under the Terrorism Act for re-tweeting propaganda supporting Islamic State, including images of “dreadful violence”, a judge said.
Sentencing Atzaz Khan to 12 months in prison today, the Recorder of Leeds, Judge Peter Collier QC, said the material glorified ISIS and included “torture, killings and the abuse of those who were dead”.
He said after one Twitter account with some 73 followers was closed down in June 2015, Khan had “defiantly” opened a second which went on to have some 159 followers.
He accepted Khan was of positive good character, having been hard working since he arrived from Pakistan, but he said he found it difficult to accept the submission from Khan’s defence barrister that he was naïve and had not had full understanding of what he was doing.
The judge said Khan must have known the material was unacceptable.
“Those re-tweets were so extreme and so violent it is not possible to overlook them.”
Mark Weekes, prosecuting at Leeds Crown Court, said the account which was closed in June 2015 had been created in February that year.
Material re-tweeted included a 20-minute video featuring armed men and linking events in the Balkans to Syria and Iraq and a 30-minute account in Arabic with graphic footage of attacks on soldiers, bombings and bodies.
After that account was suspended Khan had set up another retweeting material put out by ISIS “glorifying terrorism”.
That included magazines put out by the media arm of ISIS with features, for example, on Jihadi John and a poster about terror attacks in Paris.
When Khan was arrested in 2016 he accepted the Twitter accounts were his and claimed he had been researching ISIS and had not looked at all the videos he retweeted.
Zarif Khan, representing him, told the court his client was a hard working man of previous good character who had supported his family and urged the judge to spare him jail.
Mr Khan said the defendant had worked for seven years as a lorry driver but was a relatively uneducated man having been schooled in Pakistan.
“He was somewhat naïve in the way he approached this,” said Mr Khan, who said his client had not added to the material he retweeted in any way.
“He maintains to this day he does not agree with the views of ISIS.
"He is a simple man who had a different understanding of the world, he has a lack of experience of life and did not appreciate the consequences of what he was doing.
“He is a very simple naïve individual who is not very articulate.”
After the case, Detective Chief Superintendent Clive Wain, head of the North East CTU, said: “Due to the vast reach and influence of social media, the implications of posting such material should not be underestimated.
"Daesh and other terrorist groups are continuing to use the online space to encourage support for their objectives and to provoke individuals to carry out attacks abroad and in the UK. Tackling extremist material is an essential part of protecting the public and preventing offences that incite or encourage acts of terrorism.
“It is also vital that collectively we make every effort to stop people becoming radicalised online.
“We rely on the public for information and urge anyone who comes across extremist or terrorist material online to report it at gov.uk/ACT or by contacting the Confidential Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789321.
"We will always bring those who have committed a criminal offence before the courts. However we would much prefer to stop people from crossing into a path of criminality in the first place.
“We can intervene at an early stage and steer people away from becoming involved in terrorist activities and provide tailored assistance through the Prevent Strategy and Channel Project.
“If you have concerns about a loved one then you can seek help through your local police on 101. The earlier you contact us, the more likely we, along with partners can intervene and prevent your loved one becoming criminalised.”
The Prevent Tragedies website contains help and advice for those who have concerns, preventtragedies.co.uk