Mother who spread Isis propaganda on Facebook spared jail for terror offences due to children's 'suffering'

Judge: 'The sooner you are returned to your children, the better for all concerned'

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 07 November 2017 16:00 GMT
Ahmed used Facebook to spread Isis propaganda and incite terror attacks
Ahmed used Facebook to spread Isis propaganda and incite terror attacks

A woman convicted of terror offences for spreading Isis propaganda online has been spared jail by a judge who was moved by the “suffering” of her children.

Farhana Begum Ahmed, of Wembley, pleaded guilty to one count of encouraging terrorism and three counts of disseminating terrorist publications.

The Old Bailey heard that she had been a “prolific” contributor to a Facebook group called Power Strangers where links to extremist propaganda were shared.

The private page, which had 1,406 members, described itself as a “pro-IS group, the purpose of it is to connect mawhideen brothers from different parts of the world and to help each other”.

Using the pseudonym Kay Adam, Ahmed’s also wrote posts between September and November 2015 that were found to directly encourage readers to launch terror attacks.

Ahmed was arrested by detectives from the Metropolitan Police in July 2016 after they identified her as the person behind the extremist posts and she has been in custody since being charged in April.

Her five children, aged between six and 16, have been cared for by relatives during that time and the judge said he was “moved” by a letter from her eldest son.

Ahmed was given a suspended sentence at the Old Bailey 

Judge Christopher Moss QC handed Ahmed a two-year suspended sentence, meaning that she will only be jailed if she violates set conditions, and a 10-year notification order.

“In your exceptional case, the sooner you are returned to your children, the better for all concerned,” he told Ahmed.

The court heard that the 40-year-old had been effectively a lone parent living in temporary accommodation and had “suffered at the hands of strangers”.

In mitigation, lawyer Hossain Zahir claimed his client was a “good mother” and was full of remorse, having now rejected extremism.

Judge Moss concluded that her period in custody had already had an “extremely adverse effect on the children”.

“You have devoted your life, apart from this abhorrent behaviour, to the care of your children,” he told Ahmed.

”There is no realistic danger of you returning to the mindset evidence of your conduct of two years ago.

“You want nothing more than to return to your family and your family want nothing more than to return to them.

“They have suffered greatly by your period in custody. Your case is in an entirely exceptional category.”

As she left the dock, Ahmed, who wore a hijab, acknowledged the judge and quietly said “thank you”.

The British national travelled to Turkey with her husband Muhammed Burmal Karwani and their five children in November 2013 – as jihadis from across Europe crossed from Turkey to join the Syrian civil war.

She and the children returned to Britain while her husband stayed behind and, when she tried to travel to Turkey in August 2015, she was turned away by authorities, the Old Bailey heard.

Prosecutor Ben Lloyd said: “It may be that following this, the defendant decided to begin her campaign on Facebook encouraging terrorism.”

Her postings included a speech by Isis’ spokesperson and a link to an “extensive online library” of terrorist publications.

“It is clear from the defendant's decision to join this group, and then by virtue of the material that she posted, that she shared the group's ideology and aims,” Mr Lloyd added.

​Ahmed's posts, which saw her express approval for Isis’ Paris attacks, had attracted a large number of followers.

The prosecution offered no evidence on two separate charges of funding terrorism that Ahmed denied.

The allegations related to thousands of pounds sent to her husband, who has since been acquitted of terror offences in Turkey and returned to the UK.

Commander Dean Haydon, head of Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command said: “Ahmed was sharing and publishing terrorist material via Facebook and actively encouraging others to carry out terrorist activity.

“She tried to hide behind a fake username and profile, but we were able to identify that she was behind the account and responsible for the posts.

“The issue of online radicalisation is a serious one, but it is one that the public can really help us with. I would urge anyone who sees anything online that is concerning, to report it.”

Additional reporting by PA

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