- Choudary, 51, was jailed for five-and-a-half years for inviting support for ISIS
- He's said to have got more radical in jail but was still allowed to leave Belmarsh
- Campaigners said Choudary still remains 'Britain's most dangerous extremist'
- Security around him is estimated to cost the taxpayer more than £2million a year
- Hate preacher branded 'shameless coward too scared' to go to war himself
- His spiteful rhetoric inspired 100 jihadis including Lee Rigby's murderers
- Anjem Choudary was seen enjoying his freedom after he was released from jail having served only half his sentence for swearing an oath of allegiance to ISIS.
The hate preacher smiled and waved as he stepped out of a bail hostel in north London, having been shown his room and given a tour of the building.
He is set to receive free unsold food from the likes of Pret a Manger and Tesco at the hostel – which backs on to a £15,000-a-year private school – as police monitor him in a security operation set to cost £2million annually.
The notorious Islamist cleric was swept out of Belmarsh Prison in south-east London at 4am this morning in a blacked-out people carrier followed by a convoy of unmarked cars carrying police and MI5.
Choudary, branded Britain's most dangerous extremist, still has his long beard and wore blue Adidas trainers and a long white robe today.
The 51-year-old, who looks older and thinner than before he was jailed, was uncharacteristically silent due to stringent conditions of his release which state he cannot speak to media.
Authorities are mounting a huge security operation in a bid to prevent him radicalising a new generation of home-grown jihadi terrorists costing taxpayers at least £2million a year.
Choudary's hostel is a five-storey building sandwiched between a primary school, offices and townhouses and locals are furious he has been put there.
One neighbour told MailOnline: 'I think it is disgusting that he is here and freed so early given what he is responsible for. It is repugnant to think that this man who inspired terrorists is now living here'.
A source at the Ministry of Justice described the hostel as a form of half-way house between prison and the normal outside world.
Council community wardens stood outside the building today, though they will not be stationed at the site in the long-term.
Choudary's wife and children live about ten miles from the hostel. She was not at her home this morning and neighbours said she left around 8am.
A fellow resident of the hostel where Choudary is living told MailOnline the cleric will have his own room with a double bed, chest of drawers and a wardrobe.
Like other newly released criminals he will have to adhere to a strict curfew.
The hostel resident said Choudary will spend his first day being briefed by staff who will explain the rules of the premises.
The hate preacher will be offered the choice of eating his meals in a communal area or in his own room.
Although he does not have cooking facilities in his room he will have the use of a shared kitchen.
Choudary will also be allowed to buy his own TV for his room or can join the 30 other residents in a communal area. Mobile phones are allowed but he will not have access to a computer.
The hate preacher branded the most dangerous man in Britain will live at the property under the strictest conditions ever imposed on a released prisoner.
The hate preacher will remain at the hostel after serving half his five year and a half year sentence for pledging allegiance to ISIS.
One trader, who asked not to be named, said: 'It is sickening knowing he is so close.
'They should find another place for him away from the community. Everyone has heard of him. If he hates this country so much he should be deported.'
Another trader setting up a stall selling T-shirts and items for tourists, added: 'I know people are meant to get a second chance - but not for this man. He's done too much damage'.
The Government has launched a campaign to debunk his influence and ridicule with Whitehall sources calling him a 'shameless coward' who was 'too scared' to go to war himself so encouraged vulnerable young men to go instead.
The insider told the Telegraph: 'Choudary is just a coward. He has never travelled anywhere to fight and yet has been happy to see followers go abroad to wage jihad and die.
'He doesn't care about them. He is happy to radicalise vulnerable young men and send them to fight. But he is too scared to go. He is no martyr'.
Choudary was to a probation hostel after serving half his sentence for swearing an oath of allegiance to Islamic State – despite security experts warning the 'Pied Piper of jihad' would inspire more terror attacks.
However, he will be subject to a huge security operation, including surveillance teams, monitoring devices and demands that he adhere to up to 25 rules controlling his activities.
Choudary, 51, a married father of five, is one of Britain's most notorious firebrand clerics.
He was jailed for five-and-a-half years for inviting support for ISIS, but was given automatic release after serving half his sentence.
The judge who sent him to prison in 2016, Mr Justice Holroyde, said he would be dangerous in jail and on release.
He told him at the Old Bailey: 'You show no remorse at all for anything you have said or done and I have no doubt you will continue to communicate your message whenever you can'.
His unpopular release came as:
■Campaigners said he remained 'Britain's most dangerous extremist' after research showed he is already linked to over 120 Islamist terrorists.
■It was revealed that the huge security surrounding him is estimated to cost the taxpayer more than £2million a year - compared to the £50,000 to keep him in jail.
■An imam who has met Choudary in jail suggested he had used human rights laws to be placed in a half-way house in North London – close to where he used to preach – by claiming he had to be near his children.
The release is a landmark moment for the Government, which is still reeling from a string of atrocities which left more than 30 dead last year.
The preacher, who once led banned group Al-Muhajiroun, was sentenced in 2016. Fiyaz Mughal, head of anti-extremist group Faith Matters, has spoken to the imam who was brought into jail to try to de-radicalise him.
'Choudary was put in containment that stops him engaging with other prisoners, but also given pastoral care to see if they could get through to him,' he said. 'I asked the guy who spoke to him if the de-radicalisation programme had worked and he said, 'No, he's got worse. He's hardened'. He speaks in the mind-set of the victim. He sees himself as a martyr the state tried to silence.'
Choudary does not plan to directly challenge the conditions of his release, but instead is working out ways to get round them, Mr Mughal said.
'He's said things like, 'if someone wants to upload my videos I'm not going to stop them'.'
Mr Mughal added: 'He should have served the full term. It's a terrible day for victims of the attacks he has helped incite.
'We need a change in the law so that anyone named as the inciter in two terrorist attacks should automatically serve the full sentence.'
Dr Michael Kenney, of the University of Pittsburgh, who followed Al-Muhajiroun for five years for his research, said its followers were 'very excited' about his release.
They had been dormant following his arrest, but are now expected to try to 'rebuild and revitalise', he said.
And he warned it was 'entirely possible' that more of his followers would turn to terrorism, like Khuram Butt, who was part of last year's London Bridge terror attack and Lee Rigby killers Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale.
Security expert Professor Anthony Glees, of Buckingham University, said: 'He is charismatic and a very gifted orator – he is the Pied Piper of Jihad.
'Those who are vulnerable to his warped messages will see him as a hero … who has been through the fire of imprisonment.'
Security sources say Choudary's conviction has raised his credibility among fanatics. In the past, his desire not to go to prison and, what was seen in some quarters as his cowardice by not going to Syria, raised suspicions that he was a stooge for the security services.
Campaign group Hope not Hate found he has been directly or indirectly linked to at least 123 Islamist terrorists.
'Anjem Choudary will remain the most dangerous extremist in Britain today,' said Nick Lowles, chief executive. 'This is a man who has inspired dozens to commit acts of violence.'
The security operation will include surveillance teams, monitoring devices and demands that Choudary adhere to up to 25 rules. He also faces being targeted by UN sanctions to freeze his assets, prevent him travelling and even enforce 'arms embargo provisions'.
Theresa May yesterday insisted safeguards were place to protect people from him.
How Anjem Choudary's sermons inspired a generation of home-grown terrorists and radicals
The hate-filled circle around Anjem Choudary was a breeding ground for the Islamic extremism which plagued Britain in the last two decades.
Former law-student Choudary, who previously called for adulterers to be stoned to death and branded UK troops 'cowards', always hid behind free speech rules whenever challenged by the authorities.
But the group he helped to set up were linked to a series of terrorist attacks, as easily-influenced young men became inspired by his twisted vision of jihad.
The best known of his disciples was Muslim convert Michael Adebolajo, who, along with Michael Adebowale, attacked Fusilier Lee Rigby with a meat cleaver in Woolwich in 2013 in a murder which shocked the country.
Adebolajo was a supporter of Choudary's al-Muhajiroun group and was pictured standing behind the hate preacher in 2007.
After the incident, Choudary said Adebolajo was 'a practising Muslim and a family man' who he was 'proud of'.
But he denied encouraging the killer to carry out the attack, insisting he was 'channeling the energy of the youth through demonstrations and processions'.
London Bridge attacker Khuram Butt also joined one of Choudary's rallies, this time on College Green outside the Palace of Westminster in 2013.
There, Butt 'verbally assaulted' a moderate Muslim leader who had opposed Choudary's extremist rhetoric.
Meanwhile, Mohammed Reza Haque, thought of as Choudary's bodyguard, disappeared from Britain in 2014.
A photograph taken in Syria showed him in a balaclava and camouflage clothing, brandishing an AK-47 assault rifle and he has since been suspected as being a tall figure in ISIS's horrific execution films.
Siddhartha Dhar, who once ran Choudary's media operation, was also seen posing in a military style coat and boots, brandishing an assault rifle and holding his new born baby in Syria, labelling the picture 'Generation Khilafah'.
In December 2014, two other close associates were discovered in the back of a lorry at Dover as they tried to leave the country.
Westminster attacker Khalid Masood was also linked to Choudary through Ibrahim Anderson, an al-Muhajiroun activist convicted of inviting support for ISIS in 2016.
Will this fanatic branded despicable by fellow Muslims spark a new terror wave, asks NEIL TWEEDIE
He laughs boorishly for the camera across a pub table crammed with half-drained pint glasses and cans of cider, while a friend sitting next to him flaunts a copy of a soft-porn magazine. As a young man – a failed medical student turned aspiring lawyer – Anjem Choudary liked porn, casual sex, booze and getting stoned.
Now, at the age of 51, he prefers others to get stoned – but not on drugs. ‘For people who have had adultery committed against them, people who have had their wives taken, a lot will say: “I think stoning to death is appropriate”,’ he has said.
Welcome to the warped, medieval world of Britain’s most virulent Islamist hate-preacher who, following his expected release from prison today, is back in circulation – albeit hemmed in by draconian restrictions on his freedom.
Choudary, who was raised in Kent by Pakistani immigrant parents, is a man consumed with hatred for the liberal society that nurtured him, and a believer in the unforgiving rule of sharia law. In his universe, for every human weakness there is a brutally appropriate punishment, including crucifixion, and for every infidel a place in hellfire.
This so-called cleric, who is not a recognised religious scholar, has inspired some of Britain’s most infamous Islamist terrorists, including Khuram Butt, leader of the London Bridge attacks in June last year, and Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, murderers of Fusilier Lee Rigby who was hacked to death in Woolwich in 2013.
It is thought that more than 100 terrorists owe him some degree of allegiance, and many more acolytes have made their way to Syria to take part in jihad. Choudary, a qualified solicitor who used his skills to stay just the right side of the law during two decades of extolling extremism, was brought to justice after being caught expressing support for the banned terrorist sect Islamic State.
Jailed for five and a half years at the Old Bailey in August 2016, he is now free on licence after serving half his sentence – to the frustration of those who understand the danger he represents.
‘I would describe him as a hardened terrorist, somebody who has had huge influence on the Islamist extremist scene in this country over many years,’ says Richard Walton, a former head of Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command. ‘I believe we are under-estimating the potency and danger of the radicalisers who don’t carry knives, guns and overtly plot terrorist attacks but who pollute the minds of young Muslim men.’
During a debate in the House of Lords on the Government’s proposed counter-terrorism and border security Bill this month, Lord Anderson, a former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said a quarter of jihadis convicted in Britain between 2001 and 2015 were ‘associated’ with Choudary, compared with a tenth linked to al-Qaeda and one in 20 connected to Islamic State.
Describing Choudary as a ‘highly dangerous fanatical extremist’, prisons minister Rory Stewart has promised that he will be subject to round-the-clock surveillance.
Under the terms of his early release, which cannot be prevented under current law, he will be housed in a probation hostel in London for six months, away from his family home in Ilford in the east of the city, and must remain within the area bounded by the M25 motorway.
He will be electronically tagged, subject to a curfew, banned from preaching and attending certain mosques, allowed to associate only with ‘approved’ people and barred from using the internet. A single mobile phone is allowed – but subject to examination at any time. In addition, Choudary’s assets have been frozen, and he will be subject to strict limits on financial activity.
MI5 and intelligence agency GCHQ will participate in the surveillance operation targeting the preacher, but pressure on resources makes continuous physical surveillance less likely. With 23,000 potential extremists at large, they have their hands full.
Choudary spent most of his sentence at Frankland high-security prison in County Durham. It is one of three institutions in Britain equipped with a separation unit, a ‘prison-within-a-prison’ intended to isolate terrorists from ordinary inmates.
Choudary, whose release date takes into account time spent on curfew and remand before his trial, was allowed to associate only with a handful of similar prisoners, and subject to psychological and spiritual counselling involving an approved imam.
Much good it did him – he is reported to be as extreme as ever and has been penning a book chronicling his ‘martyrdom’. ‘Choudary may not have coached suicide bombers directly,’ says David Videcette, a former counter-terrorism officer,’ but he is the calibre of person who would do such a thing. A person thinking of sacrificing his or herself for Allah, in Syria or elsewhere, will seek this man’s approval, and he has the contacts to make this ambition a reality.’
Now he is expected to tread very carefully, giving the authorities no excuse to send him back to prison.
‘He is aware of what the law allows him to say and what not to say, and he rarely steps over the line,’ adds Mr Videcette. ‘He knows how not to get himself into trouble – we were extremely lucky to find some material showing him promoting IS that allowed us to put him away. He remains a danger to anyone with whom he comes into contact – those who are vulnerable and impressionable.’
Choudary studied medicine at Southampton University but failed his first-year exams and took up law. As an undergraduate, he was known as Andy, a ‘party animal’ who indulged his appetite for alcohol, cannabis and women.
Estrangement from British society began with his failure to secure a job in a top law firm and he began to gravitate towards extremism, becoming a disciple of Syrian-born Islamist preacher Omar Bakri Muhammad. Together, the men founded al-Muhajiroun (ALM), a shadowy organisation promoting a hardline version of Islam.
All the time, he and his equally radical wife, and their children, were sustained by benefits from the state they both profess to loathe – totalling some £20,000 a year in child benefit, housing benefit and tax credits.
An incubator for terrorism, al-Muhajiroun was proscribed in 2010 but re-emerged under a series of new names such as Muslims Against Crusades. Bakri had left the UK in 2005, leaving Choudary as the guiding light of the Islamist movement here.
A narcissist with a taste for the limelight, he was adept at courting media attention. In his vision of the future, the black flag of the caliphate will fly over Buckingham Palace and Downing Street, and the Queen will be forced to cover her face, he repeatedly told journalists. In 2010, he led a protest in the Wiltshire market town of Wootton Bassett, through which the coffins of British servicemen killed in action in Afghanistan were paraded and honoured after being flown in to nearby RAF Lyneham.
‘Goading is part of his strategy,’ says Mr Videcette. ‘He wants to drive a wedge between the Muslim community and the secular community. Terrorism is about polarising views – Muslims are left alone by the main population and that allows extremists to thrive within that community.
‘Choudary is one of the few public faces of Islamist extremism. There are not many people with his public persona, but several hundred who behind closed doors share his views. He is at the top of a hierarchical structure that at its base has about 20,000 people who are known to have contact with these hundreds of advisers.’
As a young man, Adam Deen was seduced by the simplistic ‘Muslims against the rest’ message of ALM and joined the group. Now a director of the anti-extremist organisation Quilliam, he warns that the impending release of Islamist leaders like Choudary from prison could re-energise groups whose ranks have been thinned by deaths in Syria and other causes.
‘Restrictions are not going to stop Anjem’s act,’ says Mr Deen. ‘Be it middle-men or whoever, he will find a way to make an impact. I would be very surprised if he has in any way been reformed by prison. He has too much invested in his image. Some think he doesn’t mean what he says, but he does. It’s the scariest thing about him.’
Sentences for most Islamist extremists in the UK have been relatively short due to the effective tactic of convicting them for conventional crimes. About half of known extremists were found guilty of other forms of criminality.
This approach resulted in a spate of arrests but now many of those offenders are coming up for release, presenting the already stretched
security services with a fresh headache. A BBC Newsnight report this week cited Akbar Dad Khan, a moderate Muslim councillor in Luton, who warns that al-Muhajiroun is far from a spent force and that ‘thousands’ of Muslims continue to support its aims.
Imprisonment has failed to dent the enthusiasm of many extremists, and Britain’s embattled penal system has, if anything, served as a breeding ground for radicalism. Separation units are not billed as a punishment but as a precaution. So Islamist extremists enjoy access to television, participate in Friday prayers and are entitled to a halal diet.
The separation unit at Frankland has been described as ‘successful’ but ‘claustrophobic’ by prison monitors. The three separation units in the country can hold just 28 prisoners in total.
Before he tripped himself up over endorsing IS, Choudary was happy to exploit his country’s protection of free speech while rubbishing the freedom that allowed him to exercise it. ‘You see, we don’t believe in the concepts of freedom and democracy,’ he told an interviewer. ‘We believe sovereignty belongs to God.’
Extolling the dystopian horror that was the so-called caliphate established by IS in Syria and Iraq, he went on: ‘They don’t see in the public arena things like alcohol, drugs, gambling, these kinds of vices. They’ve been completely wiped out.
‘In many respects it’s the kind of society I’d love to live in with my family.’
Radicalism is certainly a feature of the Choudary household. In 1996, Anjem married Rubana Akhtar, then 22. She proved to be every bit as extreme as her husband, being secretly filmed in 2016 speaking in favour of IS, making light of the burning to death in a cage of a captured Jordanian fighter pilot and predicting the destruction of the non-Muslim population of Britain.
Their daughter, Hediya Mehraj, appears to have followed in her parents’ footsteps. In 2013, the then 16-year-old used Twitter to urge Muslims to wage holy war in Syria.
The new counter-terrorism bill should reduce the legal threshold for incitement, making it easier to prosecute the Choudarys of this world. But the hate preacher of Ilford will be on his guard.
‘Choudary was hard to catch in the first place and will be harder to catch in future,’ says Mr Videcette. ‘These people become skilled at countering electronic surveillance. They leave their phones in separate rooms and conduct business in open spaces. Messages will be passed by hand, and important contacts made through third parties.
‘Our best bet is to make him as paranoid as possible. We will be looking to feed agents into his circle – people who will be recording him. Yes, we are going to bug his phone; yes, we are going to break into his house and bug it; and yes, we are going to install bugs in his car. Yes, every single person he talks to could be an agent.
‘But we need to be at the top of our game. We are going to be stuck with him for some time.’
Understandably, moderate Muslims are alarmed at the prospect of Choudary’s release. Miqdaad Versi of the Muslim Council of Britain says: ‘Mr Anjem Choudary has long been condemned by Muslim organisations and Muslims across the country, who consider him and his support for Daesh (IS) to be despicable.
‘Many Muslims have long been puzzled why this man was regularly approached by the media to give outrageous statements that inflamed Islamophobia.’
Surely the best thing to do – when once again Anjem Choudary attempts to spread his own special brand of hatred – is to ignore him.