Derby MP Helped Terror Plot Accused With Asylum Application, Court Hears

14 November 2017, 06:42 | Updated: 14 November 2017, 07:11

Old Bailey

Derby MP Margaret Beckett took up the case of an asylum seeker months before his arrest for allegedly plotting an Islamic State-inspired attack on the UK, a court has heard.

The MP was in contact with the visa and immigration department about Munir Mohammed's status shortly before he allegedly embarked on a plan for a bomb or ricin atrocity.

He had claimed asylum in February 2014 after coming into Britain in the back of a lorry, but his case had not been decided more than two years later, leaving him in limbo, unable to legally work.

In August 2016, the 36-year-old Eritrean turned to Labour MP Mrs Beckett for help with his situation, jurors were told.

She was informed by authorities that his case was "not straightforward" and had been referred to a "specialist unit for consideration", the Old Bailey heard.

Mohammed is on trial along with chemist Rowaida El-Hassan, whom he met through a Muslim dating website and allegedly recruited to help him with a lone wolf attack.

Previously, the court has heard how divorcees Mohammed and El-Hassan had a "rapidly formed emotional attachment and a shared ideology", despite living in Derby and London.

Mohammed also made contact with a so-called Islamic State commander and volunteered to carry out a terror attack in Britain, the prosecution alleges.

By the time of his arrest in December last year, the Muslim convert had two out of three components needed for making TATP explosives, jurors have heard.

But giving evidence, Mohammed denied being an Islamic extremist loyal to IS and said he was not planning acts of terrorism in the UK.

Charles Bott QC, defending, asked: "Have you ever supported the aims and objectives of Islamic State?"

Mohammed, who gave evidence with the help of an interpreter, replied: "No. They are outside the orbit of Islam."

He added that the use of violence to achieve objectives was "completely unacceptable".

The defendant was asked about IS propaganda he had allegedly shared with his co-accused.

He told jurors: "I accessed the material of Isis. It's mainly for curiosity and I wanted to know their point of view because these are readily available kinds of material. I wanted to know what they say about Islam religion because they claim they are religious."

On how he had got hold of IS propaganda, he said: "For example, if you have a friend on Facebook and this person 'likes' any material, this automatically came into my timeline so I will be able to access it."

Mohammed said he fled his home country of Eritrea to neighbouring Sudan in the 1980s because of the civil war.

He spent years living in Libya working for a Chinese oil company before he made his way across Europe, arriving in Britain in early 2014.

When he was picked up by authorities in Bedfordshire, Mohammed was given shared accommodation in Derby while he sought asylum, jurors heard.

He did 12-hour shifts for Kerry Foods, making ready meals for supermarkets, and lived in a single room with up to two other men, jurors were told.

As an asylum seeker, he received free accommodation and £35 a week, but did not have permission to work, the court heard.

Mohammed, of Leopold Street, Derby, and El-Hassan, 33, of Willesden Lane, north-west London, deny preparing terrorist acts between November 2015 and December 2016.

The trial was adjourned until Tuesday when Mohammed will continue his evidence.