Twins jailed for terrorism fundraising


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The Independent Online

Identical twins who raised thousands of pounds for their brother while he was undergoing terrorism training in Somalia were jailed for three years each today.

Transport for London employee Mohammed Shafiq Ali and father-of-three Mohammed Shabir Ali were described at the Old Bailey as being part of a "network of support" who sent money from England to the Horn of Africa.

The 25-year-olds from east London plotted to con members of the public into donating cash by saying it was for charity, the Old Bailey heard. Instead, the money they collected went to Mohammed Shamim Ali, 29, who was involved in a radical jihadist group.

While police say they will never know the exact amount of money they sent over, the twins admitted the charge on the basis it was £3,000, sent to Somalia between August 2008 and June last year.

Sentencing them, Mr Justice Fulford said: "The courts must reflect the seriousness of offences of this kind in the sentences that are handed down, given that they were intended to support terrorism."

Shafiq Ali's heavily pregnant wife wept in the public gallery as her husband was sentenced. One of the twins looked up at his relatives with his hand to his heart as he was led away from the dock.

Mr Justice Fulford told the court: "The financial assistance took place at a time when both defendants suspected that their older brother was involved in terrorist training activities in Somalia.

"It is accepted by the prosecution that they sent funds primarily out of concern for their brother's physical and mental health, although it is important to note this was in the context of his planned involvement in terrorism."

In a family telephone call, recorded because the twins believed it may be the last time they spoke to him, their brother spoke of the need for people to "sacrifice life" for their cause.

He also told the twins he was being given automatic weapons training, including training in the use of Kalashnikovs.

Prosecutor Timothy Cray said: "The need is relayed by their brother for fighters to dedicate their lives to jihad, and if needs be to sacrifice life."

The twins also explained how they were raising money.

Mr Cray added: "The conversation recorded with the brother clearly shows that these defendants have been in contact with, and taking instruction from, someone they described as 'brother Hamza'.

"There is talk even down to the details of how the money is to be raised, for example, pretending to non-Muslims that the money is being raised to help the Palestinian cause or for recognised charities like Muslim Aid."

The charge the brothers admitted, which falls under section 15 of the Terrorism Act 2000, carries a maximum sentence of 14 years.

The twins' legal representatives told the court the pair were not extremists themselves, but Mr Cray said: "Anyone taking part in section 15 offences will have been radicalised to some degree."

Mr Cray said Shamim Ali had travelled to Somalia in 2008 intending to "carry out terrorist training as part of a radical jihadist group".

He added: "The crown's case against these defendants is that terrorist training abroad depends on a network of support at home, and these defendants were part of that network."

He said that "raising money in this context is more than simply rattling tins", adding: "The offence encompassed by section 15 depends on an understanding of how money can be sent on conditions of secrecy through other trusted members of that group."

The court heard the twins passed their money through Shabaaz Hussain, who was "at a higher level in this funding network".

Hussain, of Jamaica Street, Stepney, east London, was jailed for five years and three months in March for donating £9,000 to Shahim Ali and two other friends, Muhammed Jahangir and Tufual Ahmed, known collectively as "The Somali Three".

Mr Cray said of Hussain: "These brothers used him as a conduit to pass money that they raised on to Somalia."

Evidence showed the men had read a pamphlet called 44 Ways To Support Jihad which contained sections on how to raise money for terrorism abroad, he added.

The judge told the court in his sentencing remarks: "They are not suggested to have held anything like the most extreme leanings or views.

"They nonetheless did have a degree of what I am going to describe as relevant ideological interest at the time of this offence."

The twins were originally charged with assisting another to commit acts of terrorism or in preparation for acts of terrorism, as well as having a document that could be of use in terrorism.

Their guilty plea to the charge of raising money to fund terrorism was accepted instead at the Old Bailey yesterday, with the original offences lying on file.

Deb Walsh, deputy head of the Crown Prosecution Service's Counter-Terrorism Division, said: "This was a case that demonstrates the network of international support that funds acts of terrorism and in turn seeks to threaten lives.

"The Ali brothers now face three years in prison for their criminal acts."