Extremist who made Festival Hall ‘attack’ video found guilty of terrorism

An extremist who made a “chilling” video of London’s Royal Festival Hall with the message “Attack, attack” has been found guilty of encouraging terrorism.

Shehroz Iqbal, 29, posted the mobile phone footage to a group of like-minded friends on WhatsApp in March.

Among them was high-profile extremist Abu Haleema, who has been linked to the ringleader of the London Bridge attack, Khuram Butt, and featured in the documentary The Jihadis Next Door.

Iqbal, of Ilford, east London, had denied encouraging terrorism on WhatsApp and disseminating Islamic State propaganda on Facebook.

A jury at the Old Bailey deliberated for three hours and 45 minutes to find him guilty of the charges.

The defendant, who had declined to give evidence, was remanded into custody to be sentenced on November 20.

Prosecutor Kate Wilkinson had described Iqbal as an extremist who as “volatile and prone to act on his extremism”.

London Stock
London Stock

On March 11, he visited the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank, near the Royal Festival Hall and Waterloo Bridge, the court heard.

He spent about an hour-and-a-half at the popular art attraction and made a video on his phone, it is claimed.

Ms Wilkinson said: “It was a calm video, it was short and its message was clear.

“It spanned from across his vista as he stood there at Hayward Gallery and focused on the traffic passing on Waterloo Bridge, and then he spoke rather chillingly.”

In the footage played in court, Iqbal said: “This is my spot Akhi (brothers) Central London. Attack, attack.”

Ms Wilkinson told jurors: “The Crown say this was the defendant telling his ‘brothers’, his like-minded associates on his WhatsApp thread, that this place, Royal Festival Hall – Hayward Gallery – Waterloo Bridge, was his ‘spot’, a very public popular attraction.

“To do what? He goes on to say ‘Attack, attack’.”

The court heard that Iqbal sent the video to a WhatsApp group of 22 associates called From Dark To Light.

Iqbal denied posing a threat or wanting people to feel threatened by his behaviour.

But Ms Wilkinson pointed out a second video Iqbal had filmed six months before on the Tube, in which he appeared to shout at a passenger, calling him a “racist bastard”.

As the nation went into lockdown in late March, Iqbal posted on social media a propaganda video depicting Islamic State fighters in 2015.

The court heard that the video, which featured an image of a dead body, was viewed more than 200 times on the defendant’s Facebook page.

On his arrest in April, Iqbal claimed he had been high on drugs when he posted the Facebook video without looking at it.

He explained the video at the Hayward Gallery, saying he had gone for a ride that day and made the film to show off his bike.

He claimed that the reference to “attack attack” was him practicing dog commands as he wanted a German Shepherd like a pet named Rocky he had when he lived in Pakistan.

But Ms Wilkinson told jurors: “The Crown suggest that was a video not showing off his bike but rather saying to his friends ‘Look what I might do’ – carry out an attack in central London in a public spot just like the Royal Festival Hall or Waterloo Bridge, just as others who shared his extremist Islamic views had done before on 9/11, in Manchester and on London Bridge.”