Race to stop release of Sunderland shopkeeper convicted of terror offences with new law
A Sunderland shopkeeper jailed for encouraging terrorism on social media could reportedly be released from prison later this month unless a new piece of legislation is rushed through by the Government.
There is a race against time to pass the emergency law following a terror attack in Streatham, South London, on Sunday, February 2, as police chiefs warned the threat of terrorism was "not diminishing."
A target of Thursday, February 27 has been set to get the Bill through Parliament in order to prevent the automatic release of any further terrorists.
A Whitehall official said: "If the legislation is passed by February 27 we can prevent the automatic release of any further terrorist suspects who might pose a threat to the public."
It is understood that one offender, thought to be Sunderland shopkeeper Mohammed Zahir Khan, is due for release a day later than the target – Friday, February 28 – with around five further offenders expected to be let out in March unless the new law is in force.
Khan, who was jailed for four-and-a-half years in May 2018 for posting messages and material that was supportive of IS on social media, was told by a judge at Newcastle Crown Court that it was “clear” he supported the terrorist group.
The 40-year-old, who moved to Sunderland in 2013 from Birmingham to get away from the “gang members and crime” which were part of his previous lifestyle, had denied deliberately encouraging terrorist acts online.
The UK's terror threat level is currently set at "substantial", meaning an attack is likely. It was downgraded from "severe", the second highest rating, in November, shortly before the London Bridge attack.
In Streatham on Sunday, convicted terrorist Sudesh Amman wore a fake suicide belt as he grabbed a knife from a shop in Streatham High Road before stabbing two bystanders.
The 20-year-old had been jailed for possessing and distributing terrorist documents in December 2018, but was freed automatically halfway through his sentence less than a fortnight ago.
He was put under 24-hour police surveillance on his release after it is understood security services regarded him as an "extremely concerning individual".