Counterterrorism officers were repeatedly blocked by British security service MI5 from pursuing criminal investigations against Britain’s highest-profile radical preacher, Anjem Choudary, it has been claimed.
Last week, Choudary was found guilty of supporting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL), which seized territory in Iraq and Syria and inspired terrorist attacks across Europe.
Following his conviction, it was revealed that the 49-year-old former lawyer had been linked to at least 15 terrorist plots since 2001. Police also believe he has connections to as many as 500 of the 850 young British Muslims who have traveled abroad to join IS.
According to the Telegraph, counter-terrorism officers often felt they had enough evidence to build a case against the cleric, only to be told to hang fire by MI5 because he was crucial to one of their ongoing investigations.
The situation led to a build-up of tension between the two sides, with police feeling “frustrated” that Choudary was not being brought to justice, a source told the newspaper.
He was eventually prosecuted after swearing an oath of allegiance to IS and posting YouTube videos in which he praised the group.
One counterterrorism source says the decision not to prosecute him earlier came from MI5.
“I am gobsmacked that we allowed him to carry on as long as he did. He was up to his neck in it, but the police can’t do full investigations on people if the security service say they are working on a really big job, because they have the priority,” he told the Telegraph.
“That is what they did constantly. While the police might have had lots of evidence, they were pulled back by the security service because he [Choudary] was one of the people they were monitoring.
“It was very frustrating and did cause some tension, but we were told we had to …