Abbas Iqbal 2009
UPDATED: 00:51, 20 March 2010
Two brothers who filmed Al Qaeda-style propaganda in a park and dubbed themselves ‘The Blackburn Resistance’ were yesterday convicted of terrorist offences.
Abbas Iqbal, 24, gathered a stockpile of weapons at the family home in Blackburn, while his brother, Ilyas, 23, studied and compiled information on guerrilla warfare.
A jury at Manchester Crown Court found Abbas Iqbal guilty of dissemination of terrorist publications and preparing for acts of terrorism.
Ilyas was found guilty of possession of a document likely to be useful to a terrorist.
A third man, Muhammad Ahmad, 26, was cleared of preparing for an act of terrorism.
Abbas Iqbal was sentenced to two years’ jail for dissemination of terrorist material and one year for preparation for acts of terrorism, to run concurrently. He has already served two and a half years on remand and will be released shortly.
Ilyas was sentenced to 18 months for possession of a document likely to be useful to a terrorist but was released immediately as he too had spent two and a half years on remand.
Passing sentence, Judge Andrew Gilbert QC said: ‘You fancied yourself as a fighter for the cause, but the truth is you were a very low-grade one.
‘It would be wrong to pass a long sentence on someone who is obviously more taken with the vanity than the reality.’
‘Blackburn Resistance’: Abbas Iqbal (left) and his younger brother Ilyas (right) arrive at an earlier hearing. Ilyas Iqbal was jailed for 18 months
During the four-week trial, the jury was shown mobile phone footage off all three men dressed in camouflage and crawling across a town centre park in broad daylight.
One of them appeared to carry a rifle as he rustled through Corporation Park in Blackburn.
The video was among material found on a mobile phone memory card contained in the suitcase of Abbas Iqbal when he was arrested as he attempted to board a flight from Manchester Airport to northern Europe in August 2008.
An alleged extremist, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was in the company of Abbas Iqbal at the airport.
Prosecutor Edward Brown QC said the ‘promotional collage’ was intended to radicalise others abroad.
The park video is introduced by a voice stating: ‘They are fighting against oppression, they are The Blackburn Resistance.’
It is accompanied by a background chant which recites: ‘I am the armour for those who believe in the unity of Allah. I am the fire against the aggressor.’
‘Very low-grade’: Abbas Iqbal was dismissed by the judge as ‘someone who is obviously more taken with the vanity than the reality’
The Iqbal family home in Percival Street, Blackburn, was searched and officers uncovered an armoury stockpile in a cabinet and a desktop computer containing extremist material.
The cabinet contained numerous air rifles, knives, machetes, a sword, a crossbow, various ammunition, books on weaponry and hand-written notes on ‘Attack planning’ and ‘Urban combat’.
In his defence, Abbas Iqbal claimed the park video was a homage to his action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger, and was based on the film Predator, which he said he had seen 600 times.
He said he wanted to fly abroad in August 2008 because he was offered a job as a teacher at a newly-opened mosque.
Ilyas Iqbal said his notes on ‘Urban combat’ were largely based on the Hollywood movie Black Hawk Down and he could not see how his ideas would have been useful to anyone but himself.
Outside court Omer Shaukat, a friend of Ahmad, read a statement on his behalf.
‘I have no doubt the only reason I have been prosecuted and spent more than a year in custody was because I am a Muslim.
‘We have been labelled wrongly as terrorists by the media and police. I was arrested, charged and imprisoned for 19 months waiting for the trail, thankfully I was acquitted.
‘The action of the police will do nothing to assist good relations between Muslims and the police.’
Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Porter, of the North West Counter Terrorism Unit, said: ‘Public safety is always the police’s top priority and all information is fully considered and acted upon appropriately to minimise risk to the public in the North West.
‘Terrorism affects us all and protecting the safety of the public is of paramount importance. Security for our communities is our highest priority and sometimes we have to make arrests.
‘We will continue to do our utmost to help people recognise signs of suspicious behaviour so that they in turn can help defeat terrorism.
‘I would ask that our communities continue to be vigilant and work with us by reporting any suspicious behaviour to their local police officers or by calling the confidential anti-terrorist hotline on 0800 789321 or by logging on to www.police.uk.’