Usman Khan’s Lawyer Admits Terrorist May Have ‘Deceived’ Him and Authorities by Appearing Reformed

TOPSHOT - A forensics officer works outside a tent on Cannon Street near London Bridge in the City of London, on November 30, 2019, following the November 29 terror incident on London Bridge. - A man suspected of stabbing two people to death in a terror attack on London Bridge …
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The lawyer of convicted terrorist Usman Khan has admitted that his client, who killed two people and injured three in a stabbing rampage on Friday, may have “deceived” him and authorities by appearing to reform and reject radical Islam before his release.

Vajahat Sharif told The Times that Khan seemed positive during his last meeting with his client before his release in December 2018, saying the convicted terrorist even talked about getting married.

Painting a picture of a changed character, who was “engaging” with the reformatory system, the lawyer said: “He was about to be released, and he wanted to go over a few things. It seemed to be going well for him. He was engaging with probation and the prison authorities and talking about marriage when he got out. There was nothing alarming about what he said.”

“It is possible he deceived me. He was clever enough to do something like that,” Mr Sharif said.

The terrorist’s lawyer added that Khan “didn’t seem extreme” and claimed that “he must have got depressed” which resulted in influencing him to attack and kill.

— Voluntary engagement in deradicalisation programmes “next to none” at one jihadi prison unit —

The admission comes as a separate Times report revealed that an increasing number of Islamist extremists are refusing to engage in prison deradicalisation programmes.

The newspaper of record referenced a Ministry of Justice study from earlier this year that programmes in jihadist exclusion units were failing because many of the inmates had “refused to engage in aspects of the centres, especially interventions to support disengagement from extremism and address their offending behaviour”. One source told The Times that at one unit, engagement was “next to none”.

The MoJ admitted that it was unclear what results these deradicalisation programmes were producing, with the report saying there was “limited evidence of what assessments and interventions are the most effective for extremist offenders”.

Khan had initially refused to engage in a deradicalisation programme. He later became involved with the “healthy identity intervention” which is meant to encourage “desistance and disengagement” from extremist behaviour. Former prison governors had criticised the programme because prisoners knew how to “game the system” with their responses to appear compliant and on the path to reformation.

One such former prison governor and emeritus professor of criminology at Birmingham City University, Professor David Wilson, said: “Basically, people know what they have to say so that you can tick boxes to say you have done the courses. It is not rigorous, and nobody has confidence that it does what it says on the tin.”

“The prison service has no idea about how to cope with terrorists,” Mr Wilson added.

— Cambridge University vice-chancellor defended Khan’s deradicalisation programme, despite deaths of two alumni — 

Professor Stephen Toope praised the “extraordinary” Learning Together programme organised by Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology and suggested there were no plans to end it, despite the deaths of two of the institution’s alumni.

Cambridge alumnus Jack Merritt, 25, was the coordinator at the Learning Together programme in London while 23-year-old alumna Saskia Jones was a volunteer. It was during the event that Khan began his attack, killing both Mr Merritt and Miss Jones and injuring three. Civilians apprehended Khan shortly after on London Bridge before armed police shot the terrorist dead.

Professor Toope told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s done extraordinarily good work and in fact in a 2016 [government] review of prison education by Dame Sally Coates — she held it up as an example of best practice.

“Yes, this a dreadful, horrible, tragic situation, but we must put it in the context of five years of extraordinary work.”

— Usman Khan’s 2010 accomplice arrested on suspicion of terror offences — 

In 2010, counter-terror police arrested Usman Khan for his part in a plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange and pubs in his home city of Stoke as well as for planning to establish a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. Police arrested others in his radical Islamist terror cell known as the Nine Lions.

The Telegraph reports that Hussain’s and Khan’s parents had come from the same part of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and the two had become close friends. Hussain was reportedly a disciple of Islamic extremist Anjem Choudary and his banned al-Muhajiroun group, and was a key player in the Nine Lions.

One of nine convicted of terrorism in 2012, Khan was sentenced to an IPP — an indeterminate sentence for public protection. However, the Court of Appeal quashed the IPP in 2013, and his sentence was converted into a term of 16 years. As per current British judicial standards, he was eligible for release on licence midway through that prison term. Kham was released with an ankle tag in December 2018.

Two other associates of Khan, Mohammed Shahjahan and Nazam Hussain, also had their IPPs lifted and were given fixed-term sentences after appeal.

Sky News reported on Sunday that Nazam Hussain, 34, had been arrested on terrorism offences after a search of his property in Stoke-on-Trent. Hussain had also been released on licence in December 2018. Police told the broadcaster there was “no information to suggest” the arrest was related to the London Bridge terror attack.

The arrest comes after The Telegraph reported that more Islamists released under licence might be returned to prison. Hussain was one of 74 convicted and released terrorists under review, and a source told the newspaper that “a number” is expected to be sent back to jail in the coming days.

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