Free to walk London’s streets, the extremist preacher and 'mentor' of Jihadi John
Security services are understood to be investigating Hani al-Sibai, a preacher who cannot be deported from Britain, and his influence on Mohammed Emwazi, the Islamic State executioner.
Free to stroll through Britain’s cities, this is the al-Qaeda cleric suspected of radicalising “Jihadi John”.
Security services are understood to be investigating links between Hani al-Sibai and his influence on the west London terror network in which Jihadi John - unmasked as Mohammed Emwazi - operated.
It is claimed that al-Sibai, a charismatic preacher, had “captivated” a number of young Muslim men who subsequently went abroad to fight jihad.
In a court case last year, he was accused of having “provided material support to al-Qaeda and conspired to commit terrorist acts”, an allegation he denies.
Despite being officially identified as an affiliate of the notorious terror network, al-Sibai, citing his human rights, has thwarted government attempts to deport him for more than 15 years.
Instead, the Egyptian-born cleric lives in a leafy street in fashionable west London in the same neighbourhood where Emwazi and his fellow jihadists in the London Boys terror cell hung out.
The London Boys was the name given to a “sleeper cell”, set up by Osama bin Laden, whose members were sent to training camps in Somalia and ordered back to the UK to carry out attacks.
It is not clear what direct contact, if any, al-Sibai, 54, had with Emwazi but he posts radical material on websites he runs, which are said to be highly influential on young jihadists.
Al-Sibai was a close associate in London of Adel Abdel Bari, another Egyptian-born jihadist and senior al-Qaeda operative who lived in London and was jailed for 25 years in the US in February for a series of terror plots.
Bari’s son Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, 25, a one-time rap musician in west London, subsequently travelled to Syria and is thought to be part of Jihadi John’s network inside Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
The rent on father-of-five al-Sibai’s home in Hammer-smith – owned by a housing association and worth as much as £1 million – is understood to be paid by the taxpayer.
Mohammed Emwazi aka Jihadi John
The public purse has also paid for a number of legal actions brought by al-Sibai against the British government in his battle to prevent his deportation to Egypt and also attempts to have his name removed from terror sanctions lists.
From his home, al-Sibai, also known as Hani Youssef, runs an effective al-Qaeda propaganda machine, that includes the al-Maqreze Centre for Historical Studies. In recent months he has used various internet sites to praise bin Laden and glorify al-Qaeda for waging war against “the Crusader-Zionists”.
He has been described as a “long-time ally” of Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took over control of al-Qaeda following bin Laden’s death.
His alleged links to al-Qaeda have led to his bank accounts and assets being subjected to freezing orders by the United Nations, the UK Treasury and US Treasury.
Last year, in a publicly funded court case, al-Sibai went to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg to try to get his status as an al-Qaeda affiliate overturned and allow him access to bank accounts and other financial assets.
In court documents unearthed by The Telegraph, the European Commission’s sanctions committee alleged that al-Sibai “has provided material support to al-Qaeda and has conspired to commit terrorist acts”.
It went on: “He has travelled internationally using forged documents, he has received military training and has belonged to cells and groups carrying out terrorist operations using force and violence involving intimidation, threats and damage to public and private property, as well as obstructing the activities of the public authorities.
“[The applicant] instructed others to go to Afghanistan to take part in the fighting there.
“He has used an internet site to support terrorist acts undertaken by al-Qaeda as well as to maintain contact with a number of supporters around the world.”
It concluded: “[The applicant] is wanted by the Egyptian authorities for involvement in terrorist crimes committed inside and outside Egypt, including criminal collusion with intent to commit acts of premeditated killing, destruction of property, unlicensed possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives, membership of a terrorist group, forgery of official and other documents, and theft.”
Al-Sibai, who trained as a lawyer, denies the links to al-Qaeda although he refused to comment when approached by The Telegraph.
When al-Sibai first claimed asylum in the UK in 1994, he told officials he had been tortured in Egypt because he had acted as a lawyer for Islamist groups and was linked to the opposition Muslim Brotherhood.
He was refused asylum on national security grounds, and was jailed in 1998 pending deportation. However, human rights laws make it impossible for suspects to be returned to countries where they might be tortured or killed, and Britain was unable to obtain from Egypt the necessary assurances as to al-Sibai’s welfare.
Al-Sibai described the 7/7 attacks in London as a 'great victory' for al-Qaeda
He has since been given temporary leave to remain in the UK despite being added to the UN al-Qaeda sanctions list in 2005.
Last week, residents nearby described al-Sibai as an “elusive character” who would slip in and out of his house via the back door through an alleyway at the rear of his home.
The front windows are covered in bed sheets and blankets to prevent prying eyes. He has refused to deny links to Emwazi, who was born in Kuwait but grew up in west London and was part of a terror network that was centred on an area close to where al-Sibai lives.
Robin Simcox, research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society think tank and co-author of Islamist Terrorism: The British Connections, said: “The US Treasury has listed al-Sibai as an al-Qaeda associate and outlined his connections to the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, yet the UK has been powerless to deport this dangerous individual.
“Al-Sibai’s case shows the very clear national security threat that exists when the UK cannot deport preachers such as al-Sibai. He is able to radicalise others who go on to commit acts of violence, as seems to be the case with Mohammed Emwazi. The consequences can be devastating.”
Greg Hands, a Conservative minister who raised concern over al-Sibai around nine years ago, said: “It is amazing that someone with these views is still being of influence today. This highlights again the need to repeal the Human Rights Act.”
Lord Carlile QC, the former independent reviewer of anti-terrorist legislation, said: “There should be a further attempt to remove al-Sibai from the UK if his presence here is reportedly against the national interest.
“The case of Abu Qatada [another extremist iman] has shown beyond doubt that assurances can work. He was sent back to Jordan where he was acquitted.”