Sunderland shopkeeper jailed for terror posts
A Sunderland shopkeeper has been jailed for four-and-a-half years for encouraging terrorism through his social media accounts.
Mohammed Khan, who ran an off-licence in Sunderland, supported Islamic State, spouted hatred and spread fear over his Twitter and Facebook pages.
Khan had promoted "lone wolf" attacks against the west, encouraged martyrdom, praised extremists for deadly attacks on American soldiers and posed in front of an Islamic State flag for a profile picture.
The 40-year-old denied he deliberately encouraged terrorist acts online, but a Judge at Newcastle Crown Court said it was clear he was a "supporter of so-called Islamic State" and had acted intentionally to encourage the public to "commit, prepare or instigate" acts of terrorism.
Judge Paul Sloan told Khan: "It is clear from your tweets and retweets that you were a supporter of so called Islamic State, ISIS, Daesh but you also supported martyrdom.
"You had an uninhibited hatred for Shiite Muslims, president Asaad and his regime, non-believers and hatred for some western countries, such as the United States."
The judge said Khan, who has served long prison sentences in the past for drug supply and robbery, believed Islamic State would stop genocide in Syria.
The court heard Khan 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 hated by Islamic State, regardless of his beliefs, and was not a supporter of them.
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.
"It 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 the 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."
The court heard Khan 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".
Khan pleaded guilty to five offences of encouraging terrorism, one of dissemination of a terrorist publication and two of stirring up religious hatred.
An Imam from Pentonville prison, where Khan has been held on remand, sent a letter to the judge which suggested the shopkeeper's extreme views may be changing in a more positive direction.
Robert Dacre, defending, said Khan lived a "normal life" in Sunderland and was capable of being a positive part of society again.
Mr Dacre said the social media outbursts were "motivated by anger" but he added; "He now has developed his thoughts, with the Imam."
Khan was arrested by officers from Counter Terrorism Policing North East (CTP North East) and Northumbria Police in November.
Detective Superintendent Simon Atkinson, Head of Investigations at CTP North East, said after the case: "Khan openly disseminated material over the Internet that promoted terrorism and hatred of others," he said.
"Terrorist groups such as Daesh rely heavily on their propaganda being shared online where it is used to radicalise, encourage support and provoke individuals to carry out attacks abroad and in the UK.
"Tackling extremist material is an essential part of protecting the public and preventing offences that incite or encourage acts of terrorism.
"We urge anyone who sees extremist content online to report their concerns at www.gov.uk/ACT."