A terror cell linked to Anjem Choudary went on to kidnap the missing British journalist John Cantlie, a Portuguese court is due to hear next week.
Two men accused of being part of the London-based ‘Leyton Cell’, named after the north London borough where its Portuguese members met before a number went on to travel to Syria and become prominent members of Islamic State are due to appear in court in Lisbon on Monday.
The defendants are Romulo Rodrigues da Costa, a hip-hop music producer whose brothers have been identified as known associates of Jihadi John, and an alleged Isis financier and recruiter, Cassimo Ture, who was exposed late last year as living on benefits in London with his family.
The pair stand accused, along with six other men, of supporting or funding the cell. However, the other six alleged members are either missing, presumed dead, or detained in Syria following the military disintegration of Islamic State.
Among the missing defendants are Celso Rodrigues da Costa and Sadjo Ture, whose suspected involvement in the July 2012 kidnap on the Syrian-Turkish border of British journalist John Cantlie sparked a long-running Portuguese investigation which has led to next week’s trial.
Mr Cantlie is still missing in Syria after he was forced to regularly appear in propaganda videos for the terror organisation. As late as last year, the UK Government said it had reason to believe he is still alive despite reports he had been killed in air strikes.
It has previously been reported by the Sunday Times that members of the cell had links to Choudary, the UK’s most notorious hate preacher, and his followers, after a number including Celso Rodrigues da Costa and his brother Edgar moved to London in the mid-noughties to pursue dreams of forging professional football careers.
Celso later appeared in a video for Islamic State in 2014, wearing a ski mask and holding an AK-47, in which he claimed he had played for Arsenal. It later emerged he had merely attended an open trial for the Premier League club where he had failed to be selected.
The wives of Celso and Edgar Rodrigues da Costa, Reema and Zara Iqbal, were last year stripped of their UK citizenship after travelling to Syria.
The jihadi bride sisters are reported to be among 150 people who could attempt to come back to the UK after a recent Court of Appeal ruling that Shamima Begum should be allowed into Britain following the revocation of her citizenship in 2019 on national security grounds.
Meanwhile, Anjem Choudary remains in the UK under some of the strictest licence conditions in UK legal history after being released from prison in 2018.
The 53-year-old was jailed in 2016 for a string of terror offences, in which he was linked to 15 terror plots and hundreds of British jihadists who fled to Syria to fight.
Choudary is currently living with his family in Iford, East London, and was one of the terror convicts who had his licence conditions reviewed in the aftermath of the London Bridge stabbings last year.
All eight Portuguese defendants are charged with three separate terrorist crimes, one of membership and support of a terrorist organisation; another of international terrorism; and a third of financing terrorism.
A 291-page indictment released ahead of the trial at Lisbon’s Court of Justice lists 42 bizarre codewords the alleged terror gang used to try to outwit investigators behind phone taps.
The British police were referred to as Bongofia in phone conversations between gang members, according to the prosecution document.
Germany was called ‘Clisman’ or ‘Klinsmann’ after the retired football star, and Syria was referred to as Discoteca – Disco in English.
The expression ‘Dar un beijinho na boca’ – English for ‘Give a kiss on the mouth’ really meant ‘Crossing the border’ according to prosecutors.
Turkey had three different names – Tiagao, Tomas and Tomoso – and Syria was referred to by the woman’s name Susana.
Cassimo Ture, 45, is accused by the Portuguese authorities of helping fighters and jihadi brides from Britain travel to Isis’s former caliphate in a scheme allegedly financed by mass student loans and social services fraud.
The prosecution indictment adds: “Romulo Rodrigues da Costa acted with the specific intention of supporting his brothers, morally initially because he defended the same radical ideology, and then materially.
“As far as Celso was concerned, he provided him with the passport that enabled him to join Islamic State and become a fighter.”
Costa and Ture will be asked to take the stand on Monday.
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