A Muslim cleric with links to the Islamic terror group behind the Tunisian beach terrorist attack is living on benefits in a £1 million home in a leafy London suburb. Hate preacher Hani al-Sibai shares the large home with his wife and five children. Between them, they are raking in £50,000 a year from the taxpayer purse.
Al-Sibai is known to be a key figure in international jihad. For the last decade he has been running a propaganda operation from his London home that has influenced young Muslims across the world, including members of Ansar al-Sharia Tunisia (AST), the terrorist group behind last month’s Tunisian massacre.
Yet, despite his known connections to the group, he is free to live and claim benefits in the UK. Days after the Tunisian attack, the Daily Mail report that he was “strolling in the sunshine outside his home”. When asked how he could justify milking the welfare state for such a large amount of money, al-Sibai replied: “Ask David Cameron, don’t ask me.”
Al-Sibai and his wife are estimated to be living on £48,000 a year at the taxpayers’ expense. It is thought that they are able to claim nearly double the supposed £25,000 cap because they both claim disability living allowance. Al-Sibai has also been handed a car worth £16,000, and a parking space right outside his house to go with it.
His flagrant abuse of the system has prompted calls for deportation. Tory MP Peter Bone said: “This is the sort of thing that drives my constituents mad. I expect the Home Secretary to deal with this urgently. There is a very strong case for him to be deported. He needs to be dealt with.”
In a 2013 report by the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, al-Sibai is cited as one of a number of key thinkers “strongly associated with al Qaeda and its affiliates” – alongside Abu Qatada, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdissi, Abu Basir Tartusi, and Anwar al-Awlaki – who influenced Ansar al-Sharia, Tunisia’s largest Jihadi cell, and the group which recruited and trained Seifeddine Rezgui, the gunman who carried out the beach massacre.
The report goes on to note: “Al-Sibai’s involvement in international jihadism runs long and deep. In February 1999, London’s AlHayah reported that he served as the head of the media committee for Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ).”
It also notes his association and “loyalty” to Abu Iyad, also known as Saifallah Ben Hassine, the founder and leader of Ansar al-Sharia and a disciple of another former London-based hate preacher, Abu Quatada. The report says:
“Al-Sibai has maintained his loyalty to Abu Iyad over the years, delivering a March 2012 video address sponsored by AST to a Tunisian salafi audience: his sermon attacked Muslim scholars whom he said misled the umma (body of believers) into serving as tools of Western powers. When AST held its Kairouan conference in May 2012, al-Sibai was one of several foreign scholars to address the audience by video. He attacked the ruling government as “unbelievers and servants of France”.”
Earlier this year it was revealed that, despite his successful efforts to radicalise a number of young British Muslims including Mohammed Emwaszi, better known as Jihadi John, authorities have been unable to deport al-Sibai for 15 years thanks to the Human Rights Act, which states that no-one at risk of torture may be deported.
As al-Sibai revealed his terrorist links when he claimed asylum and the Egyptian authorities have never given assurances over his treatment, he has successfully fought legal battle after legal battle – also funded by the British public – to be allowed to stay.
Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs select committee, has now stated that he is writing to Home Secretary Theresa May to demand an explanation as to why al-Sibai is still in the country. “It is extraordinary that successive governments have been trying but failing to remove someone who has these worrying links,” he said. “The way he has foiled attempts to remove him are a cause for enormous concern.”
The Department for Work and Pensions said: “People who commit, plan and support acts of terror will be prosecuted and anyone who has been deported or sent to prison will lose their benefits.”
The Home Office said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”
Follow Donna Rachel Edmunds on Twitter: Follow @Donna_R_E or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org