Extremist who praised French teacher’s killer jailed for five-and-a-half years

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A Twitter user convicted of encouraging terrorist acts after posting an image of a terrorism victim’s severed head has been jailed for five-and-a-half years.

Ajmal Shahpal, who urged others to decapitate those who insult Islam, was found guilty in March at Birmingham Crown Court of sending tweets which would encourage people “to commit, prepare, or instigate acts of terrorism”.

The 41-year-old, of Birkin Avenue, Radford, Nottingham, had denied the offences despite praising the killer of French school teacher Samuel Paty for being “as brave as a lion”.

Shahpal was assisted by an Urdu interpreter on Thursday as he was sentenced at the same court for one count of intentionally encouraging terrorist acts and one of doing so recklessly.

“You expressed extreme Muslim ideology, which included the immediate murder by beheading of anyone considered to have committed blasphemy against your religion.

“You did not know who read your messages or where they were in the world.

“The jury clearly rejected your account. I also take into account that these offences were committed in 2020.

“You cannot complain of the delay given you required there to be a trial.”

At the end of the judge’s sentencing remarks, Shahpal was told he will be subject to a 12-month extended licence period after his five-and-a-half year sentence has been served.

A two-week trial was told Shahpal was arrested at his home in March 2021 after tweeting messages backing a Pakistan-based political party which supported the “out-of-hand murder of those who it thinks have committed blasphemy”.

Opening the Crown’s case against Shahpal at the start of the trial, prosecutor Dan Pawson-Pounds said: “This is a case about terrorism, that is the encouragement by this defendant of others to commit acts of terrorism.

“He did that by publishing tweets on his Twitter account which specifically encouraged others to behead those who he believed had insulted his religion, his religion being Islam.”

Jurors were told Shahpal, originally from Kashmir, sent some of the tweets on his open account on September 26 2020, a day after Charlie Hebdo’s former office in Paris was targeted for a second time by Islamic extremist Zaheer Hassan Mehmood.

Mehmood’s stabbing attack was “both vicious and incompetent” and came five years after 12 people were killed in an attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices, the court heard.

The court was also told Shahpal expressed support for extremists who had attacked those he viewed as blasphemers, including Mr Paty, who was killed on October 16 2020.

Shahpal also saw fit to tweet an image of the severed head of Mr Paty lying on the street, saying that “the insolent had been sent to hell”.

Further tweets said that whoever insulted Islam should be killed, and threatened the French government.

During his evidence, Shahpal claimed he was retweeting other people’s views “just to have some more followers”.

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