Wales Muslim Cleric

Wrexham imam Abdurraouf Eshati jailed over Libyan arms plot

27 October 2015

North East Wales

A Libyan man who lived at a mosque in Wrexham and sometimes led prayers as an imam has been jailed for six years after admitting his part in a network plotting an 18.6m arms deal.

Abdurraouf Eshati admitted collecting information for terrorist purposes.

The 29-year-old was sentenced at London's Old Bailey over the bid to get arms to the war-torn country.
The charge related to two documents on the purchase of ammunition and cargo plane hire.

Judge John Bevan QC said on Tuesday: "It's obvious that his involvement means that it was felt he could be trusted as a confidant in relation to large-scale arms supply."

Eshati was due to stand trial on Monday but changed his plea.

The court was told electronic documents found outlined a plan to send 1,100 tonnes of ammunition to Libya, via a contact in Italy, in support of the Zintan people there.

During their investigation, police searched Eshati's room at Wrexham Islamic Cultural Centre where they found a number of letter-headed documents which were blank, apart from a stamp and a signature which the prosecution said was a forger's kit.

It is understood Eshati lived at the mosque and would occasionally lead prayers when no one else was available but he did not take any of the main prayer meetings.

Eshati was caught trying to get to France in the back of a lorry with 19 other people at the port of Dover in Kent on 30 November, last year.

On his mobile phone, police found an invoice from an arms supplier for the sale and delivery of ammunition to Tobruk in Libya and a document about chartering a cargo jet for 163,000 for use in Libya.

Eshati also had images on his phone of militia group activists, a beheading and armaments in action which, the prosecution said, showed his allegiance to the Zintan people.

On his arrest, he told police he had been in Britain since 2009 on a visa and later as an asylum seeker.
Eshati said his father had been a senior figure in the Gaddafi regime and was now in prison in Tripoli while his two brothers had been murdered. This, however, was a false claim.

On Monday, he admitted seeking leave to remain in the UK by deception on or before 14 December 2012, by falsely claiming he was at risk of persecution if returned to Libya.

Dr Ikram Shah from the Wrexham Islamic and Cultural Centre said in a statement the members want to disassociate themselves from Eshati's actions and added they feel betrayed by what he has done.

Speaking after the hearing, Det Ch Supt Terri Nicholson, head of operations at the Metropolitan Police's counter terrorism command, said: "There is no doubt trading arms in this way would endanger the lives of many Libyans, with the potential for use in other conflicts."

The Crown Prosecution Service said Eshati's arrest and the finding of these documents led to Italian authorities discovering large scale illegal arms supplies being imported from eastern Europe to conflict zones in Libya and other places.

Lying cleric sacked from school canteen

The New South Wales Government has revealed that an Islamic cleric, who lied about his name and criminal past to prison authorities, has been working as a school canteen manager.

State Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt says the Department of Education today cancelled a contract issued to Amwar Hisam Al Barq to provide canteen services after becoming aware through media reports of his prior criminal conviction in the United States on drugs charges.

Ms Tebbutt says he tendered for and was awarded the contract last month.

She says she has also asked the director-general to investigate the matter and report on the appropriateness of the department's criminal checks.

The Opposition has also used Parliament to question whether the State Government put political pressure on prison authorities to keep employing the cleric.

Mr Barq was removed from his position after it was revealed he had not used his real name and had a criminal record.

Opposition Leader Peter Debnam has taken issue with the statement that there was no evidence of links to terrorist groups.

"[On the] 15th of March, intelligence reports note and I quote, 'Al Barq's known associations with groups and persons with links to terrorist groups and activities' unquote. Why do you continue to cover up what was obviously political pressure to allow this Muslim cleric unsupervised access to New South Wales prisons?" he said.

The Opposition has also released a memo from a prison governor who said he had to continue to allow prisoner access as refusal of entry might cause an unnecessary political storm.

Premier Morris Iemma says a review will decide whether checking procedures will be upgraded

"It is clear that the department needs to do more to ensure that people with rights to visit the jails have cleared comprehensive security checks," he said.

Mr al Barq says the suggestions he has terrorist links are ridiculous.

He says he did not have to reveal his drug conviction because it occurred more than 10 years before his application to work in the prison system, but the NSW Corrective services Department disputes that.