A Nigerian closely connected to a notorious group of British Islamists has been stripped of his UK citizenship amid fears he would return to London to execute a Paris-style massacre, a court has heard.
The man, known only as L2 for legal reasons, was deemed such a national security threat by Home Secretary Theresa May that she personally signed an order removing his British nationality in 2013, it has emerged.
He was in Nigeria at the time, where he remains with family. He is now challenging Theresa May’s decision at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) in London.
At the hearing on Tuesday, an unnamed secret services agent referred to as ‘EZ’, told the court that during his time in Britain, L2 had been a member of the now banned group of radicals, al Muhajiroun.
Agent EZ said that through his other experiences L2, who is understood to maintain Nigerian citizenship, was also directly associated with close friends of Lee Rigby’s killer, Michael Adebolajo, and Mohammed Emwazi, or “Jihadi John”.
He also said L2 had fought for Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) against French forces in Mali and it was largely as a result of this assessment that a move was made to “prevent L2 returning to the UK”.
“We were trying to prevent L2 bringing back the expertise he would have learnt with AQIM and so a deprivation order was the best course to take,” he told Siac.
Recent events such as last year’s Paris attacks suggest extremists are returning to conduct their jihad in Europe, he said, including “instances where individuals from the UK have travelled overseas and returned to conduct attacks”.
The Bureau is covering the case as part of a long running investigation into the Government’s counter terrorism powers and the use of secret evidence in courts such as Siac.
The second day of L2’s appeal today was held in closed session for secret evidence to be presented to the judges by the Home Office lawyers. Neither L2 nor his lawyers are allowed to hear it.
During the open session on Tuesday, the intelligence agent described various links between L2 and known extremists.
He said that in 2007, L2 had been in Turkey where he “engaged in terror related activity” with Ali Adorus, a close associate of Emwazi. Adorus, now in an Ethiopian prison for terror related offences, was questioned alongside the IS executioner in 2009 when they travelled to Tanzania together for a “safari”.
After returning from Turkey, L2 spent “a chunk of time” in a UK prison, sometime between 2007 and 2011 for possessing a handgun, the court heard.
Allegedly, it was while he was in jail that he met Ibrahim Hassan, a known extremist who was friends with Lee Rigby killer Michael Adebolajo. Hassan was arrested two days after the 2013 Woolwich murder and later jailed for three years for encouraging terrorism.
Siac heard that after L2 was released from prison he attended al Muhajiroun meetings and demonstrations.
The agent also said L2 worked at Master Printers in Tower Hamlets, east London – a printing shop raided by police in 2011 over suspicions of links to al Muhajiroun.
He said that at Master Printers, L2 worked alongside Shah Jalal Hussein, who was tried in 2014 for disseminating terrorist propaganda and jailed for three years.
Their association was “not just through their employment”, the agent said.
L2 and Hussein knew each other because they were both founding members of proscribed terrorist organisation Minbar Ansar Deen.
The court heard how L2 tried to register a domain name for the organisation on the internet.
The security services witness said L2 was also a close associate of al Muhajiroun member Afsor Ali, who was jailed for owning a bomb making guide and al Qaeda propaganda in August 2014.
In cross-examination, Hugh Southey QC, barrister for L2, said his client denied being a member of either al Muhajiroun or Minbar Ansar Deen, merely that he was acquainted with members.
Southey added that Minbar Ansar Deen was “essentially just a website” which L2 strongly denies ever visiting.
However, the agent said their assessment was that he was a member, but that he could only give their evidence for that in a closed hearing.
The agent also told the court of the circumstances leading up to Theresa May’s decision in November 2013.
He said L2 flew to Morocco with his wife in 2012, and then travelled overland to Nigeria – passing through Mali, where he was assessed to have fought with Al Qaeda against French and Malian troops during the civil war.
Southey said L2 denies this. He said L2 says he and his wife went to Nigeria because she was pregnant and it was cheaper for them to go overland to a maternity hospital in Nigeria than to return to the UK.
But the intelligence agent suggested that account “lacks credibility… it’s a very very long journey through desert and war torn country” for a pregnant woman to make, he said.
Despite being known to the police for five years – and travelling to the US for “tourist purposes” in that time – it wasn’t until L2 lost his passport in Nigeria and applied for a new one so he could return to the UK that the Home Secretary acted.
This week’s case in Siac was almost derailed at the start of the hearing when L2 wrote to the court saying he wanted nothing to do with his appeal and was “boycotting the trial”.
“You can do as you wish with me and grant me no respite”, he wrote, according to Jonathan Glasson QC, Home Office barrister, who read aloud from the letter in court.
L2 later confirmed he wanted his case to proceed.
The case continues.
This story was published with The Independent
Header image of Ibrahim Hassan (left) and Shah Jalal Hussein (right)
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