An Absurd Sentence in the UK for a Radical Islamic Cleric Tied to ISIS
Law enforcement and counter-terrorism experts in the United States and around the world are shaking their heads in collective disbelief after convicted Islamic terrorist Anjem Choudhry was sentenced in London’s Old Bailey courthouse last week.
Choudary received a mere 5½ years in prison after being convicted of supporting the terrorist organization ISIS.
After calculating Choudary’s term for credits for good behavior, his actual time spent behind bars will probably be less than 30 months. Career criminals would call that a “skid bid,” and say that they could do that amount of time “standing on their heads.”
Even the criminals know such a sentence is a joke.
The light sentence was imposed by Timothy Holroyde, a judge of the High Court of Justice of England, even though he described the defendant as a “dangerous man.”
What exactly did Choudary do? Well, for more than 20 years he preached, proselytized, and recruited people to a radical form of Islam that encourages jihad as a necessary tenet of the faith. He has done it on street corners, mosques, and in front of television cameras.
Sly like a fox, he avoided prosecution in the past because no direct contact between him and a terrorist organization could be proven. But then British authorities uncovered a video of Choudary pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. ISI is, of course, an organization that is responsible for such heinous acts as beheadings, drownings in cages, immolations, and throwing gay people off the roofs of buildings.
Pledging allegiance to the leader of this group of radical Islamic terrorists is not like joining the Rotary Club; it is more like taking an induction oath into the armed forces. He’s now a soldier in the fight.
And what is ISIS fighting for? The complete destruction of Western civilization. The charge against Choudary should have been treason and the penalty life in prison. To give Choudary credit for good behavior while incarcerated is ridiculous. Authorities should know that he will have the opportunity to continue his evil work in an environment that guarantees him a captive audience of people who already have a disdain for government and a predisposition for violence. Prisons are fertile soil for recruitment. Is that the type of prison behavior that is considered good, and is rewarded with a get out of jail early card?
British officials have stated that Choudary will be isolated from other inmates and held within a special “extremist wing,” which will prevent him from radicalizing. My experience indicates that this approach is virtually impossible in the prison environment for several reasons. Inmates, through the courts and human rights organizations, always have the ability to challenge their conditions of confinement, as John Walker Lindh or Ramzi Yousef did.
Secondly, the French tried the same thing, placing an Islamist terrorist in an isolation cell, in the case of Djamel Beghal, a known Al Qaeda member. Still, Beghal was able to communicate and influence both Chérif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, who went on to carry out the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher market attacks in Paris after they were released from prison.
Convicts always find a way to get a message to others. Prison walls are often porous.
There’s an old saying; “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”
Perhaps in this case, the public outcry should be: “Make the time fit the crime.”
Stiff sentences are a deterrent. Criminals know that.
As we reflect on the attacks of 9/11 and remember those who have fallen, we must acknowledge that the war on terrorism continues, and that those who seek to do us harm or conspire to commit acts of terrorism must be dealt with effectively.
Hopefully here in the United States, judges assigned to try terrorism cases see the folly of a light sentence for a convicted jihadist and respond with more appropriate periods of incarceration for the crimes committed.
Otherwise we will just have more of this junk justice.
IPT Senior Fellow Patrick Dunleavy is the former Deputy Inspector General for New York State Department of Corrections and author of The Fertile Soil of Jihad. He currently teaches a class on terrorism for the United States Military Special Operations School.