Arrests made over ISIS leafleting in Oxford Street, London
Two men have been arrested after handing out extremist leaflets in London’s Oxford Street, implicitly supporting Islamic State. The illegal leaflets caused outrage on social media when the men were spotted distributing information in August.
The men, 37 and 61, were arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of supporting a proscribed organization.
The leaflets handed out by the pair did not explicitly use the words “ISIS” or “Islamic State,” opting rather for the slightly more ambiguous heading “Kalifah established.”
While it was initially unclear whether or not the men were breaking the law by disseminating such information, the veiled references to Islamic State were considered to be in support of the illegal organization.
Pro-ISIS leaflet is being handed out by students in Oxford Street, London. pic.twitter.com/xHurrCUzLx
— Nikhil Arya (@nikhilaryavrat) October 10, 2014
One propaganda leaflet read: “Muslims with the help of Allah have announced the re-establishment of the Khilafah and appointed an imam as a Khaleef.”
The men are reported to be former associates of the radical cleric Anjem Choudary, who, when the leaflets first emerged in August, said there was “nothing wrong” with wanting “to go to live there and bring up your children under the khilafah.”
The leaflets claim it is the “responsibility” of British Muslims to support the Islamic State in its mission to establish a caliphate, and to show their allegiance to its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Keith Vaz, Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said at the time he was “deeply concerned” about the presence of extremist literature on the streets of London.
“Whilst freedom of speech is important we should not allow people to promote extremist views which could lead to terrorist acts. The public should not be subjected to a terrorist recruitment drive in the middle of Europe’s biggest shopping high street,” he added.
Ghaffar Hussain, of the counter-extremism think tank the Quilliam Foundation, said at the time that it was a “clear breach of the law.”
“We need to have a zero tolerance policy towards ISIS supporters and recruiters in the UK. It is about supporting one of the most evil groups we have ever seen,” he said.
— Perrie Veremis (@GrkAmer) August 14, 2014
Haras Rafiq, also of the Quilliam speaking at the time, said: “When they talk about migrating, is that an open call for the people of Britain to go there? Because that is against government policy.”
The two men remain in custody at a police station in Bedfordshire.
The arrests come days after a British mother of six was sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted of promoting terrorism on Facebook.
Runa Khan, from Luton, admitted to inciting terrorism in Syria and posting a picture of a suicide vest on her social media page. Additionally, she admitted to providing details of a route into Syria to an undercover officer posing as an aspiring jihadi.