Isis supporter who claimed 'attack' video was dog commands convicted of encouraging terrorism

Shehroz Iqbal was known to be an extremist and had participated in government deradicalisation programme

Lizzie Dearden
Security Correspondent
Tuesday 20 October 2020 20:21 BST
Shehroz Iqbal, 29, was convicted of encouraging terrorism and disseminating terrorist material
Shehroz Iqbal, 29, was convicted of encouraging terrorism and disseminating terrorist material
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An Isis supporter has been convicted of encouraging terrorism with a video urging fanatics to attack central London.

Shehroz Iqbal claimed that he was saying “attack, attack” because he wanted a German Shepherd like his former pet dog, Rocky, and was practicing commands.

But a jury rejected that explanation to find the 29-year-old guilty of all charges on Tuesday.

The Old Bailey heard that Iqbal travelled to the Southbank Centre on 11 March and filmed landmarks from the Hayward Gallery.

In footage played to the court, Iqbal panned across Waterloo Bridge and the Royal Festival Hall before saying: “This is my spot akhi (brother) central London. Attack, attack.”

Prosecutor Kate Wilkinson said he posted the video in an extremist WhatsApp group to urge “like-minded associates” to carry out terror attacks.

The 22-strong group, named From Dark To Light, included a notorious Islamist preacher known as Abu Haleema who had links to Anjem Choudary and the London Bridge attack ringleader Khuram Butt.

Haleema, who was previously known as Shakil Chapra, was banned from mainstream social media platforms after a series of extremist videos including one calling for the “black flag of sharia over Windsor Castle”.

The Old Bailey heard that Iqbal followed Haleema on the encrypted messaging app Telegram and had stored his videos on his phone.

Iqbal did not give evidence at his trial but had told police that he had gone for a cycle ride to the Hayward Gallery and made the video to show off his bike.

He claimed that the reference to “attack, attack” was him practicing dog commands as he wanted a German Shepherd like a pet named Rocky from when he lived in Pakistan.

Ms Wilkinson said: “That was a video not showing off his bike but rather saying to his friends 'look what I might do' — carry out an attack in central London in a public spot just like the Royal Festival Hall or Waterloo Bridge, just as others who shared his extremist Islamic views had done before on 9/11, in Manchester and on London Bridge.”

Abu Haleema appeared in ‘The Jihadis Next Door’ documentary alongside London Bridge attacker Khuram Butt

Iqbal denied posing a threat or wanting people to feel threatened, but Ms Wilkinson described him as “volatile and prone to act on his extremism”.

As the UK went into lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic in late March, Iqbal posted an Isis propaganda video from 2015 on social media.

The court heard that the video, which featured an image of a dead body, was viewed more than 200 times on his Facebook page.

The Metropolitan Police initially arrested him over the clip, then uncovered the Southbank Centre video later while examining his electronic devices.

He was found guilty of encouraging terrorism and disseminating terrorist material on Tuesday and will be sentenced on 20 November.

When he was arrested in April, Iqbal claimed he had been high on drugs and posted the Isis propaganda video without looking at it.

Ms Wilkinson said he told police that he “felt he was being brainwashed without the influence of the Home Office Desistance and Disengagement programme”, a deradicalisation programme he had been on for almost a year.

Iqbal was participating in the scheme because of a previous conviction from 2019, when he was prosecuted for stirring up racial hatred with a series of antisemitic posters.

Iqbal filmed landmarks around the Southbank Centre in central London

They were displayed around Gants Hill underground station, near his home, and a synagogue.

Iqbal, of Kenwood Gardens in Ilford, was spared jail last September and given a 12 month prison sentence suspended for two years, rehabilitation activity, unpaid work and £100 fine for breaching another suspended sentence.

Commander Richard Smith, head of the Met's Counter Terrorism Command, said: “I am very pleased with today’s verdict. Iqbal is a volatile man with an extremist mind-set who has now been brought to justice.

“Thanks to the vigilance of counter-terrorism officers we identified Iqbal’s illegal activity and were able to prevent him from carrying out something far more harmful.

“Every day the national counter terrorism police network is fighting terrorism. However, police also rely on information from the public and I urge everyone to remain vigilant and report anything suspicious at all to police whether they see it online or in the real world.“

Additional reporting by PA

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