Twitter user ‘encouraged beheading blasphemers against Islam’, court hears

UK

A Twitter user has gone on trial for terrorism charges, accused of using the platform to encourage the beheading of those who blaspheme against Islam.

Ajmal Shahpal, 41, from Nottingham, made the comments shortly after a teacher was beheaded in France for showing his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed during a lesson on free speech.

Shahpal tweeted a picture of Samuel Paty’s severed head with the comment: “Remove the head from the body, remove the head from the body.”

Over several weeks, he “specifically encouraged” the reader of his tweets to “behead those who insulted his religion, Islam”, Dan Pawson-Pounds, prosecuting, told Birmingham Crown Court.

He also sought to encourage attacks on the governments of countries he believed to be “acting against Islam”, the prosecutor added.

“These were tweets encouraging people to behead those he considered to be blasphemous,” Mr Pawson-Pounds said.

Shahpal published a series of tweets soon after a visit to Pakistan, between 2 and 14 September 2020.

More on Terrorism

The defendant was said to be a follower of an extremist party in Pakistan called the Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) which takes a “well-known hard-line attitude” to what it considers to be insults directed at the religion of Islam and the Prophet Mohammed.

“When I say hard-line, I mean hard-line,” Mr Pawson-Pounds told the jury.

“The party has supported and glorified the out-of-hand murder of those who it thinks have been blasphemous, including Pakistani politicians who have said things they disagree with.”

The prosecutor said there had been “a number of cases” in recent years where people have been murdered by Islamic terrorists, who justified the killing as punishing those who have insulted Islam.

He gave as an example, Asad Shah, a shopkeeper in Glasgow, who was murdered by Tanveer Ahmed in March 2016, because he had made YouTube videos which were considered blasphemous.

The prosecutor also cited the murder of 12 people in the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January 2015 to punish the publishing of cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed.

Shahpal made his tweets at a time of “high religious tension” in the Autumn of 2020 and were said to “refer to, praise and publicise” attacks in France.

Shahpal denies four counts of encouraging terrorism.

The trial continues.

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