Father of killed Syria jihadists jailed after calling for ‘jihad by sword’ at Brighton mosque

The father of two jihadists who died fighting for an al-Qaeda faction in Syria has been jailed for encouraging terrorism.

Abubaker Deghayes, 54, gave a speech at a Brighton mosque where he called for “jihad by the sword” in November 2020.

He denied that his speech could be interpreted as a call to violence, but was convicted and jailed for four years.

Sentencing him at the Old Bailey on Thursday, Judge Nigel Lickley QC said children had been in the audience when he began to speak.

He told Deghayes he was “reckless” over whether listeners would be encouraged to commit acts of terrorism, adding: “You have refused to accept the jury’s verdict and maintain you will continue to speak as you did.

“That represents a significant lack of insight and lack of reflection on your part. There is accordingly no remorse.”

Deghayes was handed a four-year prison term and an extra one-year period of licence supervision after his release.

Three of his sons travelled from their Sussex home to Syria in 2014 and joined the al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra group.

Jaffar Deghayes died at the age of 17, Abdullah at the age of 18, and the third brother Amer is reported to be imprisoned in Syria, the court heard.

Another son, Abdul Deghayes, was stabbed to death by a gang member aged 22 in 2019. The mosque speech was made days after his murderer was sentenced.

The defendant’s brother, Omar Deghayes, was detained at Guantanamo for five years over alleged terror links that he denied.

Deghayes, who works for his elderly mother collecting rents from and managing properties she owns, was supported by character references speaking of his campaigning for his brother’s freedom and his “opposition to his sons’ travel to Syria”.

In media interviews in 2015, Deghayes said he had travelled to Turkey in a failed attempt to convince them to return home, but he had previously described one killed son as a martyr“ who died ”for a just cause“.

Abdullah Deghayes died days after his 18th birthday while fighting for Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria in 2014 (Facebook)

A serious case review published by the Brighton and Hove Local Safeguarding Children Board found authorities had “missed opportunities” to stop their radicalisation and travel to Syria.

In 2010, five of Deghayes’ children told staff at a youth club that they were being forced to wake up at 4.30am to study the Quran and whipped if their father “felt that they were not studying properly”, triggering child protection plans.

The report said the children were allegedly pressured by their father to retract statements made to police about the abuse, which he denied and alleged to be part of a “racist vendetta” by a youth worker.

Their family had been known to local authorities in Brighton for decades over domestic abuse and as the victims of racist attacks.

The court heard that Deghayes was born in Libya and came to the UK in 1986.

The defendant, of Saltdean in Sussex, has previously been convicted and jailed for an offence committed against his wife.

The court heard that on 1 November 2020, Deghayes had attended evening prayers at the Brighton Mosque and Muslim Community Centre then “stood at the front of the congregation and gave a speech”.

During the 20-minute address, he called non-Muslims “idiots” and said Muslims were obliged to “emigrate” abroad if they are “in a land where we can’t practice our religion”.

He told the congregation: “Jihad is compulsory upon you, you, you and you until the day of resurrection, whatever the British government thinks, whatever [counter-terror programme] Prevent thinks, whatever Israel thinks; send to the sea. They can go and drink from the sea [inaudible] Allah curse their fathers, OK?”

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Deghayes continued: “Jihad, jihad, jihad! Jihad is compulsory. Jihad by fighting by sword, this jihad is compulsory upon you, not jihad is the word of mouth.”

CCTV footage played to the court showed Mr Deghayes making what the prosecution described as a “stabbing motion” after talking about jihad.

Prosecutor Ben Lloyd told jurors Deghayes was an “Islamic extremist” who believes in the use of violence in the cause of Islam.”

Mr Lloyd said Mr Deghayes had not given the speech “naively”, and was “at the very least being reckless as to whether people would be encouraged by what they heard”.

While giving evidence to the trial in January, Deghayes claimed he had been explaining a “very central part of Islam”.

He called Islamist extremism a “made-up” phrease, adding: “There is no extreme islam, violent islam, radical islam, moderate Islam, in the Quran there is Islam.”

Judge Lickley said a pre-sentence report had found him to have “rigid” beliefs and an “inflated sense of self-importance”.

“Because you have stated that you intend to continue to make similar speeches representing a worrying aspect of your case in showing a lack of insight, your risk of re-offending is assessed as high,” he told Deghayes.

“The risk you pose is described as being to those who are impressionable and who may interpret your words as supportive of terrorism and that could encourage them to commit terrorist acts.”