Sheffield terror trial woman ‘wanted to marry Jihadi John’

Screen grab taken from footage issued by Islamic State militants of the British extremist known by the nickname 'Jihadi John'. Pic: PA
Screen grab taken from footage issued by Islamic State militants of the British extremist known by the nickname 'Jihadi John'. Pic: PA
  • Sheffield woman shared videos of IS executions on Twitter and WhatsApp
  • Prosecution say Zafreen Khadam exchanged thousands of messages with IS fighter
  • Defendant claimed she was doing ‘undercover research

A Sheffield woman accused of spreading Islamic State propaganda and execution videos ‘wanted to marry Jihadi John’, a court heard.

Zafreen Khadam, aged 32 and of Vincent Road, Sharrow, is alleged to have used online messaging services Twitter and WhatsApp to share graphic images of killings and messages designed to ‘influence people to commit acts of terrorism in their own and other people’s countries’.

Opening the case against her at Sheffield Crown Court, prosecutor Simon Davis said: “You only have to look at Paris and Brussels to see how people attack and how people are encouraged to attack.”

Mr Davis said some of the images and videos shared by Khadam were ‘extremely graphic and disturbing’.

He said that ‘in some messages you will hear her say she wants to live the ‘IS life’ and ‘how Jihadi John is kind of scary but she would marry him’.

Khadam denies 10 counts of dissemination of terrorist publications.

Mr Davis said an investigation into Khadam by counter-terrorism officers started in January 2015 over concerns about her Twitter activity.

Her online activity was monitored for two months, during which time she opened 14 different public Twitter accounts as previous ones were shut down.

She is alleged to have shared a link to publications of an IS propaganda magazines which included a photograph of the beheading of the American journalist James Foley and calls to ‘kills disbelievers’ in America and Europe.

Khadam is also said to have shared a document encouraging people to spread IS propaganda and details of the group’s targets around the world.

The defendant is also accused of liking a Twitter link of a video of young children doing military training, with one addressing the camera to say ‘I will be the one who slaughters you’.

Mr Davis said Khadam had also shared an execution video which showed Kurdish fighters being captured by IS being paraded through the streets in cages, a man on fire and another person having their throat cut.

Khadam is also alleged to have spread a document on ‘security precautions’ for potential terrorists who want to avoid being caught.

The prosecution also allege Khadam sent a link to a speech by IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to seven contacts on WhatsApp.

Mr Davis said that when one person challenged her over the material, she replied: “I’m not for them nor against them, I’m just an activist.”

She is said to have added: “Watch it and share it, it is a rare video.”

Khadam sent another message to 11 people on WhatsApp including a link to an 11-page document inciting readers to join in with jihad.

She also is accused of sending a video of IS fighters burning a Jordanian pilot alive to one contact, along with a message reading ‘Good riddance - enjoy’.

Mr Davis said that Khadam claimed after her arrest she had been doing ‘undercover research’.

He said she provided an account in a handwritten note on the back of a bank statement saying she had been considering writing a blog.

He said the note, seen by police in July 2015 four months after she was arrested, had also suggested she ‘genuinely wanted to go to Syria for humanitarian reasons’ and had gone undercover to try and find out the truth about what was happening in the country.

Mr Davis said the explanation ‘didn’t stand up to scrutiny’.

He said Khadam had exchanged over 2,000 messages with an IS fighter in Syria called Abu Muhammed where she said ‘she wanted to marry him, wanted to live the IS life and wanted to move to Syria’.

In one message, she is alleged to have said ‘I hope Islamic State rises and comes to the West’.

Mr Davis said when she was initially arrested in March 2015, Khadam told police ‘A couple of Tweets and you get into trouble’ and ‘I used to be nice until they killed everyone in Afghanistan’. She also told police officers ‘There is no freedom of speech, only one way - your way’.

He said that when one WhatsApp contact she had sent IS propaganda to told her there was nothing in Islam to support killing people, she said he was ‘afraid of jihad’ and a ‘coward’.

Mr Davis said that in her first police interview, Khadam had accepted the different Twitter accounts - which included using names such as ‘Jihadi Princess’ - had been hers. She said she had shared links online without reading or viewing the material they contained.

The trial continues.