Portsmouth Muslim leader says community was betrayed by man convicted of terrorism offences

A police custody picture of Mashudur Choudhury
A police custody picture of Mashudur Choudhury
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BETRAYED – that’s how members of the Muslim community feel after Mashudur Choudhury was found guilty of terrorism offences.

Father-of-two Choudhury, 31, is the first person in the UK to be convicted under Section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006 of terrorist offences connected to the conflict in Syria.

Choudhury, of Stubbington Avenue, North End, went to the country intending to join a terrorist training camp in October. He was arrested at Gatwick Airport later that month.

The 12-day trial at Kingston Crown Court heard Choudhury travelled with four other people.

It also heard he lied to his wife Toslima Akhtar about having cancer, visited prostitutes abroad and invented a fake business.

Abu-Suyeb Tanzam is a committee member at the Jami Mosque, in Southsea, where Choudhury occasionally prayed.

Speaking to The News yesterday, he said: ‘It’s really shocking how he betrayed himself and how he acted as a good Muslim to the community. He showed his character – he betrayed his family, wife and parents. It’s completely unbearable that he’s done it in the name of Muslim people.

‘He’s an untrustworthy person to his family, friends and wife.’

The court also heard details of text messages sent between Choudhury and his wife.

In one, she wrote: ‘Go die in battlefield. Go die, I really mean it just go. I’ll be relieved. At last. At last.’

But giving evidence, Ms Akhtar said she did not mean he should sacrifice himself but regarded his suggestion as yet another one of the ‘barmy’ ideas that had made her life a misery.

She said: ‘I am telling him, “get lost”. Go die, jump off a cliff. I’ve had enough.’

Mr Tanzam added a warning to young people who might be considering going to Syria.

He said: ‘I would give a warning to the young people not to follow people like him. Think about the society where you live and were brought up.

‘Yes we can sympathise [with people in Syria] but I don’t take my armies to fight those people.

‘I can push as much as I can in the proper way through my government.’

Mr Tanzam had dealings with Choudhury when he was working for Portsmouth City Council.

He added: ‘He tried to get youngsters to follow his path.’

Alison Morgan, prosecuting, told the jury: ‘The evidence clearly shows that this defendant planned for and then travelled to Syria with the intention of attending a training camp.

‘The training was to include the use of firearms and the purpose of fighting was to pursue a political, religious or ideological cause. At times in his discussions with others the defendant described his intention to become a martyr.’

Ms Morgan read out a number of messages Choudhury had swapped with Ifthekar Jaman 23, of Southsea, who was killed fighting with rebel forces in Syria.

His brother Mustakim Jaman spoke to The News yesterday, saying Choudhury was a ‘friendly’ man.

He said: ‘Everyone knew him. He was a local community guy.

‘He was that kind of guy that was friendly. I wasn’t aware of anyone going [to Syria].

‘He was the kind of guy that was close to everyone.’

Choudhury messaged Ifthekar Jaman to suggest the group he was travelling with should be called the ‘Britani brigade Bangladeshi bad boys’. Mr Jaman replied: ‘Lol sounds long.’

Choudhury will be sentenced on June 13.

From council worker to Syrian war

MASHUDUR Choudhury’s path to Syria was revealed over the 12-day trial.

The 31-year-old from Stubbington Avenue, North End, was employed by Portsmouth City Council as a racial harassment caseworker.

He was also seconded as a part-time community development worker.

David Williams, chief executive of the city council, said Choudhury went through an enhanced CRB check and that he had embellished his role on his CV as presented to the court.

He worked with young Muslims as a member of the management committee at the Friendship Centre, in Elm Grove, Southsea, until 2009.

Choudhury had met other men in July 2013 at the Jami Mosque in Southsea to plan their trip to Syria. It is not suggested anyone on the mosque’s committee knew what was going on.

Choudhury travelled with four men to Turkey on October 8. There they contacted three Britons, including Ifthekar Jaman, 23, from Southsea, to get help crossing the border into Syria.

He told the court he saw the signs of war, including disfigured corpses.

Contrary to the prosecution’s case he said the other men went to join a military training camp run by jihadists but he asked to leave and returned home.

He was arrested on October 26 at Gatwick Airport.

The court heard Choudhury had created multiple online personalities.

Residents speak of shock after hearing

PEOPLE living close to Mashudur Choudhury’s home have spoken of their shock.

In court the 31-year-old gave his address as Stubbington Avenue, North End, Portsmouth.

Johnny Willett, 29, of Stubbington Avenue, said: ‘It’s a bit much knowing that they’re living in Portsmouth.’

Resident Cherry Paris, 67, added: ‘It’s a bit close to home.

‘When it’s on your doorstep you do get a bit nervous.’

Resident Norman Carter, 77, added: ‘I’m shocked to know that he was this close – there could be others.’

But Mr Cater also added: ‘Just because he went over there doesn’t mean he’s going to become a terrorist.’