U.K. Court Sentences Radical Preacher Choudary to 5½ Years

LONDON (AP) -
Demonstrator Anjem Choudary, protests in support of Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, who is appealing against his extradition to the U.S., outside the High Court in London October 5, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/File Photo
Demonstrator Anjem Choudary, protests in support of Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, who is appealing against his extradition to the U.S., outside the High Court in London in 2012. (Reuters/Luke MacGregor/File Photo)

One of Britain’s best-known radical Islamic preachers was sentenced Tuesday to 5½ years in prison for encouraging support for the Islamic State terror group.

Anjem Choudary has been one of the best-known faces of radical Islam in Britain for years, leading groups under names including al-Muhajiroun, Islam4UK and Muslims Against Crusades.

Authorities see Choudary as a key voice radicalizing young Muslims. Several people who attended his rallies and events have been convicted of violent attacks, including Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, the killers of British soldier Lee Rigby.

The 49-year-old firebrand preacher gained attention for headline-grabbing statements that provoked outrage but stayed within the bounds of the law, such as protesting outside the U.S. Embassy on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

But the London-born preacher ran into trouble in 2014 after his name appeared on an oath declaring the legitimacy of the “proclaimed Islamic Caliphate State.” Choudary said the oath had been made without his knowledge.

His supporters shouted “Allahu akbar,” the Arabic phrase for “God is great,” as Choudary was sentenced at Central Criminal Court in London.

Both Choudary and Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, 33, who received the same sentence were found guilty of inviting support for IS between June 29, 2014 and March 6, 2015.