Zafreen Khadam, 32, wept loudly in the dock and shouted ‘no, no, no’ as she was sentenced at Sheffield Crown Court today (Wednesday, May 18).
A jury of seven women and five men found her guilty of 10 counts of dissemination of terrorist publications, which included sharing videos of IS beheading and burning people alive. Khadam sent thousands of messages about terrorist activities on Twitter, WhatsApp and Kik between February and March 2015.
Sentencing her, Judge Julian Goose QC said Khadam’s defence, that sending the messages and sharing images and videos were a form of research, had been rejected.
“It is particularly shocking that you made such images your favourites and made your profile open to the internet to see,” he said.
Khadam set up 14 Twitter accounts to share messages about IS activities, creating new accounts as soon as others were shut down because of their content.
She shared graphic videos and images of IS violence. These included a video of a Jordanian pilot being burned alive, alongside the message ‘good riddance’, a photo of the beheading of the American journalist James Foley and calls to kill disbelievers’ in America and Europe.
She suggested in messages to friends that she was going to Syria and would ‘marry’ the infamous IS member Jihadi John.
And when confronted by the recipient of one of her messages, who said what IS was doing was not in the name of Islam, she said: “IS aren’t doing anything wrong. I will support them as much as I can.”
Judge Goose said: “It was only when you were arrested on March 27 that you stopped. Had it not been for your arrest, I am satisfied you would have continued what you were doing.
“You created a note pretending that all of this was research. That document was a deliberate lie to try to bolster your defence.”
He added: “There is no evidence that your conduct has led to terrorist acts but the nature of the internet and it’s global reach means your spreading of IS propaganda causes a serious risk to the public here and abroad.
The court had previously heard Khadam, who has worked at House of Fraser in Meadowhall and Harvey Nichols in Leeds, say she had been going through a difficult personal time in late 2014 shortly before the alleged offences.
The investigation was led by the North East Counter Terrorism Unit, based in Wakefield.
Unit head detective chief superintendent Clive Wain said: “It is clear from the evidence presented that Khadam openly demonstrated support for Daesh and their ideology, using multiple social media accounts to further spread the propaganda of this terrorist organisation.
“Khadam has not disputed posting the information, claiming she did so out of curiosity and the belief that she did not consider it to be terrorist material. Yet this material glorified terrorism and delivered powerful messages, encouraging terrorist acts and calling upon others to kill.
“Khadam was prolific in her use of social media and showed little regard for the consequences of openly sharing deeply disturbing images and material across a number of digital platforms. Much of this material encouraged violent action and was very extreme in the violence it portrayed.
“During the course of this investigation specialist officers from the North East CTU have reviewed hundreds of hours’ worth of videos and thousands of social media postings. Over a five week period, Khadam, tweeted up to 20,000 times.
Police feared that had she not been arrested, Khadam may have attempted to travel out to Syria.
Det chief supt Wain said “The reach and influence of social media is vast; Daesh and other groups are increasingly using the internet to encourage support for their objectives and to provoke individuals to carry out attacks in the UK. Therefore tackling extremist material is important to protect the public and prevent offences that incite or encourage acts of terrorism. It is also vital that collectively we make every effort to stop people becoming radicalised online.
“We rely on the public for information and urge anyone who comes across extremist or terrorist material online to report it using the confidential STOP button at www.gov.uk/report-terrorism.
“Today’s verdict I hope sends out a strong message that actions such as those carried out by Khadam will not be tolerated and ourselves, together with policing colleagues and other partner agencies, will bring those who are breaking the law to justice.
“It is also important to reiterate that our priority is the safety of our communities. We will bring those who have committed a criminal offence before the courts, however we would much prefer to stop people from crossing into a path of criminality
“We can intervene at an early stage and steer people away from becoming involved in terrorist activities and provide tailored assistance through the Prevent Strategy and Channel Project.
“If you have concerns about a loved one then you can seek help through your local police. The earlier you contact us, the more likely we, along with partners can intervene and prevent your loved one becoming criminalised.”