A former carpet fitter who made a video inciting a terror attack on London’s Royal Festival Hall and posted it to an extremist WhatsApp group has been jailed for eight-and-a-half years.
Shehroz Iqbal, 29, posted the mobile phone footage to a group of like-minded friends on March 11 this year with the words “Attack, attack”.
Iqbal, of Ilford, east London, had denied encouraging terrorism on WhatsApp and disseminating Islamic State propaganda on Facebook but was convicted after a trial at the Old Bailey.
The court heard the posts had been uncovered on his phone when Iqbal was pulled over later that month for possession of drugs.
During his trial at the Old Bailey, prosecutor Kate Wilkinson described Iqbal as an extremist who was “volatile and prone to act on his extremism”.
He spent an hour-and-a-half at the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank near the Royal Festival Hall and Waterloo Bridge making the clip.
In the footage played in court, Iqbal said: “This is my spot Akhi (brothers) Central London. Attack, attack.”
He then sent the video to a WhatsApp group of 22 associates called From Dark To Light.
While on bail for the drugs matters and the video, Iqbal posted a 2015 propaganda video depicting Islamic State fighters on social media.
The court heard that the video, which featured an image of a dead body, was viewed more than 200 times on the defendant’s Facebook page.
On his arrest in April, Iqbal claimed he had been high on drugs when he posted the Facebook video without looking at it.
He explained the video at the Hayward Gallery by saying he had gone for a ride that day and made the film to show off his bike.
He claimed that the reference to “attack attack” was him practising dog commands as he wanted a German Shepherd like a pet named Rocky he had when he lived in Pakistan.
He declined to give evidence at trial.
At his sentencing hearing on Friday, the court heard Iqbal had been subject to two suspended sentences at the time of the offences for harassing members of a synagogue in Gants Hill.
He had put up posters with the words “Jewish sc*m” and “stop the Gaza bombings”, and later sent the synagogue a threatening email when a picture of him was posted on its website.
Iqbal also had a string of previous convictions for shoplifting, threatening behaviour and driving offences, as well as possession of drugs matters stretching back to 2010.
Laurie-Anne Power, for Iqbal, said he had been “seeking the approval” of other people in the WhatsApp group by making and posting the video.
“He was someone who was given very little regard – often dismissed and often ignored,” she said.
“He’s exactly the type of person people with extremist mindsets pray upon,” she said, adding “he felt a sense of belonging to that group for perhaps the first time in his life”.
She said that prior to the offending, Iqbal had sought help from an anti-extremism programme, saying: “I am sitting online all day and watching this material, and it is consuming me.”
Ms Power said Iqbal had turned to drug dealing during the first coronavirus shutdown when he lost his job as a carpet fitter.
She told the court he was so inept he had kept voice memos of all of his conversations with his co-accused and the people he was supposed to be delivering the drugs to.
Jailing him for six years with a three-year extended licence period, Judge Philip Katz QC said: “You have a long history of unpleasant, anti-Semitic threats and harassment.”
Judge Katz said he did not believe Iqbal’s approach to an anti-radicalisation programme to be a “genuine change of attitude”.
“I infer to the criminal standard that when dealing with the authorities you will say whatever you think suits you best at the time,” he said.
He continued: “You blame your offending on everything from drugs to mental issues to your difficulties opening a bank account, and most ironically to you being the subject of racism.
“The irony being your own overt racism, some of it towards other Muslims.”
Judge Katz jailed him for a further 30 months for one count of conspiracy to supply class A drugs and two counts of possession, taking Iqbal’s total custodial sentence to eight-and-a-half years.