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Man who attacked police with Lord of Rings sword outside Buckingham Palace found not guilty of terrorism

Mohiussunnath Chowdhury denied attempting a terror attack and said he wanted to be killed by police

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 19 December 2018 16:00 GMT
Police officers injured in knifeman arrest outside Buckingham Palace

An Uber driver has been cleared of terrorism after allegedly attacking police officers with a Lord of the Rings-style sword outside Buckingham Palace.

Jurors were unanimous in finding Mohiussunnath Chowdhury not guilty of preparing acts of terrorism after a retrial at the Old Bailey.

The 27-year-old, from Luton, raised his eyebrows and then saluted the jurors after they spent more than 11 hours considering the verdict.

A woman in the public gallery shouted "it should never have happened” moments after it was delivered on Wednesday.

The court heard Mr Chowdhury swerved through cones into the path of a police van outside Buckingham Palace on 25 August 2017.

When officers they approached the car and ordered Mr Chowdhury to get out, they said he reached for the 42in sword.

Prosecutors said Sgt Gavin Hutt and PC Ian Midgley attempted to stop the driver slashing or stabbing them in what a “desperate struggle”.

The court heard that Mr Chowdhury shouted “Allahu akbar” repeatedly during the fight, which ended when he was overpowered using CS spray and detained.

But he told the Old Bailey that he had not attempted a terror attack and was trying to get himself killed by being shot by police.

Mr Chowdhury said he had been feeling lonely and depressed, and had "so many chances" to get out of the car and kill the officers but chose not to.

Police officers stand guard at a police cordon next to Buckingham Palace following an incident on 25 August (AFP)

The incident, which followed attacks claimed by Isis in Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge, was counted as a foiled Islamist terror attack by security services and it was unclear if the acquittal would change their assessment.

Mr Chowdhury, who walked free from court, was charged with a single count of preparing an act of terrorism over the Buckingham Palace incident.

The jury in his first trial, held in June, failed to reach a verdict.

The Independent understands that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will not be seeking to bring new charges for other alleged behaviour, which may have been covered by laws against disseminating terrorist material or possessing an offensive weapon.

Hours before the incident, Mr Chowdhury sent a note to his sister saying he was going to become a martyr and “be with Allah”.

“Tell everyone that I love them and that they should struggle against the enemies of Allah with their lives and their property,” it said.

“The Queen and her soldiers will all be in the hellfire they go to war with Muslims around the world and kill them without any mercy. They are the enemies that Allah tells us to fight. Please make dua (prayers) for me that Allah accepts my efforts.”

A 6.30pm the same day, he left his family home in Luton and drove towards Windsor.

“Rather than the royal castle, he stopped outside a pub called 'The Windsor Castle', possibly due to him entering the incorrect destination into his SatNav,” prosecutor Timothy Cray said.

Mr Chowdhury then drove into central London and went in a loop near Buckingham Palace until 8.30pm, when he allegedly swerved through cones into the path of a marked police van.

A friend of Mr Chowdhury noticed that he changed his WhatsApp image to a green bird – a symbol of martyrdom – earlier in the day, replacing the black Isis flag used before.

The jury was told that he used the encrypted messaging app to send Isis propaganda to friends and defend the terrorist group’s atrocities in Iraq and Syria, showing what prosecutors described as a “great interest in Islamist terrorism”.

Messages showed him calling the British government a “Zionist force” and claiming soldiers and police officers were “enemies of Allah”.

The court heard Mr Chowdhury had conducted numerous internet searches for Isis beheading videos and the executioner known as Jihadi John, whose real name was Mohammed Emwazi.

Mr Chowdhury told the jury that messages where he declared support for Isis had been "in jest".

While in HMP Belmarsh awaiting trial, prison officers uncovered hand-drawn pictures stuck on his cell wall showing a police officer being shot and the 9/11 attacks.

A routine inspection on 26 September this year uncovered the image of a police officer being assassinated outside Downing Street, with the door covered in blood.

Drawn under selected Quranic verses, the attacker was depicted as a jihadi shouding “Allahu akbar” while firing a machine gun.

A picture depicting the 11 September 2001 attacks in New York had the caption “9/11: 3,000 dead, Iraq invasion 1,000,000 dead”.

In a separate search on 2 October, prison guards found another document allegedly written by the suspect on “taghut” - a term that can refer to false idol worship in Islam.

It listed democracy as a cause, and named numerous countries including the UK, US, Turkey, Israel and Russia as the “allies of Satan”.

The document named military personnel and police officers among the “ranks of taghut”, adding: “It is halal [permissable] to fight them”.

Additional reporting by PA

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