Imam jailed for six-and-a-half years over sermons which investigators said had 'strayed beyond mainstream moderate Islamic thought'
An imam in the UK who expressed support for the Islamic State (IS) group in sermons which "strayed beyond mainstream moderate Islamic thought" was jailed on Thursday for six-and-a-half years.
Kamran Hussain, 40, was convicted last week at London's Old Bailey courthouse on six counts of encouraging terrorism and two of supporting IS on the basis of recordings secretly taped by an undercover police officer at a mosque in Stoke-on-Trent.
During Hussain's trial the court heard how he had told a congregation including children as young as 10 in September last year that martyrdom was the "supreme success" that was better than anything they could achieve at school.
In a sermon in June last year, the Pakistan-born preacher described IS as “a small fledgling state who is standing in the face of a pompous and arrogant army”, calling on the congregation of 10 men to pray for their victory and for their oppressors to be "annihilated".
In another sermon he also appeared to endorse beheadings of “sinners, oppressors and infidels”, telling worshippers: "When you don't fulfil the command of Allah, I'm coming to remove your head."
The court heard that in other sermons Hussain had expressed opposition to the government's Prevent counter-terrorism strategy and had suggested that the anti-Muslim English Defence League was funded by the British government.
Prosecutors told the court that 10 of the 17 sermons secretly recorded "strayed beyond mainstream moderate Islamic thought".
Hussain, who was arrested in February, told the court that he had been exercising his right to free speech and was addressing "difficult concepts in a challenging world".
'Contempt for democracy'
But Judge Rebecca Poulet in sentencing Hussain described his encouragement of support for IS and terrorism as "calculated and intentional" and said he had "sought to indoctrinate others with the hatred and contempt he has for democracy".
"In my judgment these sermons represented serious and persistent, although frequently indirect, encouragement to acts of terrorism," she said.
Detective Chief Superintendent Matt Ward, head of the counter-terrorism-unit of West Midlands Police which carried out the undercover operation, said on Thursday: “Hussain was espousing hatred and violence as well as clearly demonstrating his support for Daesh [IS] through the content in his sermons."
“During this investigation we used covert methods to record these sermons and present it as evidence during the trial. We will continue to use every lawful technique and power available to us to tackle terrorism."
Hussain's conviction follows the jailing last year of Anjem Choudary, an East London-based cleric best known for his inflammatory media appearances, also for encouraging support for IS.
Choudary and another man linked to his banned al-Muhajiroun network, Mizanur Rahman, were both sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison.