After managing to walk the fine line of the law for the
past two decades despite being constantly pursued by counter-terrorism police, Anjem
Choudary, the 49-year old British cleric with an extensive resume for preaching hate and extremism, was convicted of violating Section 12
of the 2000 Terrorism Act after law enforcement discovered him pledging allegiance to ISIS in one of his YouTube videos in June of 2014. His teachings are
reputed to have inspired an estimated 500 British citizens to leave their country to fight alongside ISIS in the terrorist group’s
efforts to establish a caliphate. Choudary’s conviction of five and half years
in prison is more symbolic than punitive, yet his case has prompted the British
government to evaluate new financial restrictions on those suspected of
terrorism - even individuals without any prior offenses.
Over $650,000 in UK state-subsidized benefits were claimed by Choudary, which he lived on for over 20 years. It
is not known to what extent these funds also supported his extremist activities.
Tom Keatinge, the director of the Center
for Financial Crime and Security Studies at the Royal United Services
Institute (RUSI), noted that it is time to “start considering including benefit agencies in the architecture of
counter terrorism and make the benefits system part of a whole government approach
to the issue.” The suggested
restrictions on the expenditure of benefits for terror suspects can be enforced
by mechanisms such as issuing pre-paid credit cards redeemable only to
pre-approved vendors to ensure that taxpayer’s money can only be used for their intended purposes. This would also entail administering
behavior orders (ASBO’s), which are civil orders that prevent individuals from carrying out
anti-social acts or illicit financial behavior as a means to take preemptive
measures against terror financing.
Enforcing financial ASBO’s would prevent influential
extremists such as Choudary, who are able to push the envelope while still
abiding by the law, from exploiting state funding to strengthen their influence
and fund terrorism. This would be a bold yet fair preventative measure in
ensuring that government money does not end up in the wrong hands.
From The Telegraph:
him to five and a half years for terrorism offences, Mr Justice Holroyd asked
how it was possible for him to claim benefits from a country he so “adamantly
government has been repeatedly frustrated in its attempts to withdraw all benefits
payments from terror suspects because doing so would often render their
dependents destitute and would therefore breach human rights law.
At the moment terror suspects can have their assets frozen by the
Treasury if they meet certain criteria, but it is understood Choudary did not
meet the threshold required.
But a system in
which their spending was tightly controlled has been seen as a workable
compromise that could help clamp down on the scandal of terror suspects
exploiting the system.”