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Sunderland off-licence boss denies supporting Islamic State

Newcastle Crown Court
Newcastle Crown Court

An off-licence boss has denied supporting Islamic State and said his life could be at risk from the terror group because he sells alcohol.

Shop owner Mohammed Khan, who ran an off-licence in Sunderland and was a keen gym-goer, is claimed to be a "supporter of Islamic State" who used his social media accounts to spread and encourage terror and fear.

At Newcastle Crown Court heard Khan has admitted he posted material on Twitter, under the user name Adam Garcia, and Facebook and that he had a hatred toward Shiite Muslims but has denied being an Islamic State supporter.

The 40-year-old Sunni Muslim, who moved to Sunderland to get away from the "gang members and crime" which were part of his lifestyle in Birmingham, said he would not be accepted by ISIS, regardless of his beliefs.

Khan, who has an earlier conviction from 2015 for a racially aggravated public order offence as a result of earlier social media posts, told the court: "I have never believed in them, never supported them.

"I may have come across as inadvertently supporting them but it was not my sport, i'm not a pro-IS person.

"Given half the chance they will kill some non-Muslims.

"In their eyes, I should know better, as a Muslim, than be selling alcohol and doing all that stuff."

The court heard Khan, who has a teenage daughter, had boasted on social media about travelling to Syria to fight but told the court from the witness box that was "not true" and had been said purely to provoke reaction.

He said: "I didn't go to Syria. I haven't been to Syria."

Khan, who served a four year prison sentence before his move to Sunderland in 2013, said he had wanted to go to Syria to help humanitarian groups who provide aid but had been unable to as he was out on licence.

He told the court: "I tried once to go, with a charity that give out clothes and food etc but they had waiting lists of six months.

"I was in 2014/2015. I spoke to my probation officer at that time and she said 'you can't go because you are on licence'.

"That was the only time I asked if I could go."

Khan told the court he has lost his shop as a result of his arrest last year, which he finds "painful" and said he had been accepted as part of the Sunderland community.

He said: "it was an excellent business, it really took off, I was the only one in the area."

Khan said he initially had problems with "racism and discrimination" when he first took over he shop but had built up a good relationship with people living in the area.

He added: "The first two years were really challenging but once i got to know them and they got to know me they started to accept me.

"I wasn't from the area, I had problems to start off but the last two or three years they pretty much accepted, I became part of the community."

Khan, who posed in front of an Islamic State flag for his Twitter profile picture claims he had no intention to encourage terrorism and that his actions were "reckless".

The court heard he had shared a terrorist publication of an "ISIS call for attacks" on his Twitter account in December 2016.

On January 2 2017, Khan had posted "welcome to the year of fear". And in March last year he posted a Facebook statement about martyrs.

Khan pleaded guilty to five offences of encouraging terrorism, one of dissemination of a terrorist publication and two of stirring up religious hatred.

Prosecutor Jonathan Mr Sandiford told the court: "The prosecution say that the defendant intended to encourage the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. He maintains, for his part, he was merely reckless."

Khan will learn his fate after Judge Paul Sloan QC has heard evidence at a hearing to determine which basis he should be sentenced on.