The Islamist firebrand preacher Anjem Choudary, described as Britain’s “most dangerous extremist,” has been released from prison after serving only half of the five-and-a-half-year sentence he received in 2016 for pledging allegiance to the Islamic State.
Prison authorities could not prevent his release: under British sentencing guidelines, prisoners — even those who are still a risk to the public — automatically become eligible for release under license (parole) after serving half their terms.
Prime Minister Theresa May has downplayed concerns over Choudary’s release; British counter-terrorism authorities, however, say they are worried that he will re-exert influence on hundreds of followers upon his release. The cost to British taxpayers of keeping Choudary under surveillance is expected to exceed £2 million (€2.25 million; $2.6 million) a year, compared to the £50,000 (€57,000; $65,000) to keep him in prison.
Choudary, a 51-year-old born in Britain to Pakistani immigrants, has actively been promoting Islamic fundamentalism in Britain for more than three decades. In 1986, Choudary and an exiled preacher, Omar Bakri Mohammed, founded an Islamist group, al-Muhajiroun (Arabic: The Emigrants), a network of Salafi jihadists determined to spread Sharia law across Britain.