Former Manchester al-Muhajiroun leader jailed for 13 years
24 October 2018
Earlier this month Hassan Butt, a former leading member of the Manchester branch of the notorious Islamist organisation al-Muhajiroun, was jailed for 13 years.
Despite Butt’s past publically declared support for Al-Qaeda and his stated desire to die a martyr, not to mention his association with a fellow Islamist extremist subsequently jailed for terrorism offences, his conviction was for fraud, money laundering and perverting the course of justice.
Butt’s known involvement in Al-Muhajiroun dated from the late 1990s to around 2005 - a period during much of which its Manchester branch regularly targeted the city’s Jewish community; perhaps not surprising given that his family home was, and still is, located in the North Manchester suburb of Prestwich, right in the heart of Manchester’s Jewish community.
In October 2000, exactly 16 years prior to Hassan Butt’s conviction, the ‘Online Notice Board For Al-Muhajiroun Activities’ carried a posting by a person named ‘Hassan’ publicising a ‘March Against Israeli Oppression’ through ‘Cheetham Hill – Prestwich... an area which the Jews have a strong hold over’.
The march, which was due to be held two days later on Shabbat Shuvah, was eventually moved to the city centre after CST raised their concerns for the community’s safety with Greater Manchester Police.
During Butt’s time as a prominent Al-Muhajiroun activist in Manchester, the group stuck posters that said: ‘Israelis… kill them wherever they are’ onto the railings of two of the city’s largest synagogues (as well as on bus shelters and road signs in surrounding streets), and distributed flyers advertising a meeting entitled ‘Jihad In Manchester?’ to homes in an area with many Jewish residents. These flyers bore the image of an Uzi submachine gun and listed Hassan Butt as a speaker alongside Omar Bakri and Abu Hamza.
In the wake of Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks on the USA and the resulting allied invasion of Afghanistan, Butt along with another leading Manchester Al-Muhajiroun activist named Sajeel Shahid, moved to Pakistan to set up an Al-Muhajiroun branch in Lahore.
There the pair claimed to be assisting Muslim youths to travel from the UK to Afghanistan in order to fight with the Taliban. Although some British Muslims did travel to Afghanistan to fight against American and British forces, Butt and Shahid exaggerated the number of people involved and probably invented much of what they claimed about their own role. In any event, their activities were rejected by Muslim community leaders back in the UK.
Following his return to Britain, Butt was arrested on several occasions in connection with his claims of involvement with and support for Al-Qaeda but was never prosecuted. Butt later retracted his claims completely.
His associate Sajeel Shahid was expelled from Pakistan in 2005 and, like Butt, returned to the UK. He has subsequently been accused of having links to the ring-leader of the 7/7 attacks and one of the men who carried out the 2017 London Bridge attacks.
While the truth about Butt’s activities in Pakistan after 9/11 will probably never be known, his role in Al-Muhajiroun in Manchester is beyond doubt; and here, he definitely had contact with people who went on to commit terrorist offences. In December 2008 one of his close friends and fellow Manchester activist, Habib Ahmed, was found guilty of being a member of Al-Qaeda and jailed for 10 years. Following Ahmed’s trial, it was reported that he had become radicalised after joining an Islamic society that Butt had set up at the local sixth form college that they were both attending.
Given Butt’s history of misleading and exaggerated stories about his own past, it is fitting he has now been convicted of fraud. There is one truth, though, that cannot be avoided: Al-Muhajiroun has had a wholly damaging impact on community relations in Britain, and Butt played his role in making this happen.
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