Sohaib Embarek, a Spanish national of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty on 20 January to:
Five counts of possession of material likely to be useful to a person preparing to commit acts of terrorism contrary to Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000
One count of dissemination of terrorist publications contrary to Section 2 of the Terrorism Act 2006.
Three counts of making indecent images of children.
One count of possession of extreme pornography.
Today (Friday 26 March) he was jailed for a total of six years at the Old Bailey and has also been ordered to comply with a Sexual Prevention Offences Order.
He was sentenced to eight months for each count to run concurrently relating to indecent images of children and possession of extreme pornography. This was following an investigation by Avon and Somerset Police.
For the terrorism offences he was sentenced to five years and four months, with an extra 12 months on licence when he is released.
Embarek had downloaded various bomb making manuals, guides on how to make poison, Daesh propaganda and then shared terrorist materials with others using messenger apps like Telegram.
As part of a proactive investigation, officers from CTPSE, Counter Terrorism Policing South West and Avon and Somerset Police carried out a warrant at an address in Bristol where Embarek was staying, on 9 December 2019. During the search, Embarek threw his Samsung mobile phone out of his window and denied owning any devices.
The phone, alongside another handset, a number of electrical devices including a laptop and a large number of pre-pay SIM cards were recovered and seized by detectives following a search at the property.
Embarek claimed during his interviews that he had been researching terrorism for more than five years; that he was on the same side as the police and that he was a legitimate journalist. When asked by detectives about which books he had read as part of his research, he could not recall a single title. When asked about any supporting documents he had regarding his research, such as research notes, he claimed to have lost his notebook on a holiday in Morocco in 2015 and decided to continue his ‘research’ without making any notes.
Detective Chief Superintendent Kath Barnes, Head of CTPSE, said: “Embarek was someone who very much had a terrorist mindset and no explanation for having materials in his possession.
“He had downloaded various documents and instructions in several languages, which he was fluent in, hoping this may cover this tracks and make it difficult for anyone investigating him.
“Embarek made very few comments during interviews with detectives from CTPSE, but when he did talk, he only told lies. He lied about having a degree, he lied about attending a counter terrorism course and he lied about his book and his research.
“By the time of his arrest, Embarek had ceased to use anything which he felt would lead to his capture, such as bank accounts or a registered mobile phone.
“Whilst he had no means to carry out the type of terrorist offences he had been researching, they were very concerning and today’s sentence reflects the serious nature of those terrorism offences.
“What this case shows is the importance of early intervention to prevent someone being radicalised so much that the only option left is that of the criminal justice system.”
A new website launched in November 2020 designed to help and support those who have spotted changes in the behaviour of someone close to them.
The Act Early website is aimed at parents, family members and friends.
Research shows that those who are closest to a person are far more likely to see subtle changes in character and hints of extremist behaviour, which may be the first indication a loved one is being radicalised.
Det Chief Supt Barnes added: “With the current pandemic, there has been a rise in the amount of time spent online and sadly there has also been an increase in hateful extremism. This is creating a risk for young and vulnerable people who may be targeted by those wanting to groom and feed their terrorist ideologies.
“However, it is important to realise that anyone can be the victim of online grooming of this nature and the Act Early website will give anyone with concerns the tools and advice they need in the first instance to address, and if necessary, seek help for this type of behaviour.
“The Act Early website will not only assist at the time of noticing different behaviour, but it also can provide you with a better understanding of what radicalisation looks like and how it could affect your loved one. There are also details of organisations outside of policing which can offer support.
“Now, more than ever, we are seeing far more people being radicalised entirely online and we want to help those people choose a different path, away from hatred and violence through the Prevent programme, which is here to provide help and support.”
Speaking about the terrorism offences, Superintendent Mark Runacres, area commander for Bristol, said: “While Embarek’s mindset is clearly very disturbing it’s not believed he posed any immediate threat to the public.
“This activity was carried out solely online and he didn’t appear to be close to putting any of it into action.
“Thanks to some excellent work from our Counter Terrorism Policing colleagues he was identified at an early stage and as a result, he will no longer be able to share his dangerous views with others.
“Cases of this nature are extremely rare in the South West region but should anyone have any concerns I’d encourage them to speak to their local neighbourhood team.”