Man accused of terror plot said he wanted to ‘hunt down’ gay people in UK, court hears

Lizzie Dearden
·4 min read
Sahayb Abu, seen in a selfie sent to his brothers, denies preparing acts of terrorism (Metropolitan Police)
Sahayb Abu, seen in a selfie sent to his brothers, denies preparing acts of terrorism (Metropolitan Police)

An alleged terror plotter said he wanted to “hunt down” gay people in the UK, a court has heard.

Sahayb Abu, 27, denies planning an atrocity and told the Old Bailey he was just “flexing his muscles” in a pro-Isis chat group.

The court heard that in a message posted to a private group on the encrypted Telegram app, Mr Abu wrote that he had “panic attacks” when he saw gay people, adding: “I need to hunt them down.”

In another message, he wrote that he “saw a woman-man thing and almost battered them” while walking down a road near his home in London.

The jury was read messages where Mr Abu called Barack Obama the “LGBT president” and called gay people “disgusting”.

While being questioned by prosecutor John McGuinness QC on Monday, Mr Abu admitted writing the messages but said they did not represent his real views or intentions.

He said he brought up the subject to be a “bad boy” in the pro-Isis chat group, adding: “I’m bringing it up as an ego trip on my behalf … just to flex my muscles.”

Mr Abu said the story about walking past someone he wanted to “batter” had been fake, and that he believed all life was sacred.

“I don’t find them disgusting at all,” he added, telling jurors that he was once kissed by a man in London’s Heaven nightclub, and told him “I’m not gay, sir”.

Mr Abu is accused of planning a terror attack in the UK after being released from prison following a burglary sentence in March 2020, after buying a sword, knife, combat vest and gloves online.

The court heard that two of his half-brothers, Wail and Suleyman Aweys, are believed to have died after joining Isis in Syria in 2015.

Three more of Mr Abu’s relatives were jailed for disseminating terrorist publications in January 2019, jurors were told.

Mr Abu denied supporting Isis and said he had posed as a supporter of the terrorist group on different online platforms because he was “bored” during the coronavirus pandemic.

Asked why he had sent pro-Isis propaganda to himself, he said it was “just the fact that I was in lockdown bored out of my mind”.

Mr Abu told jurors he was “trolling” when writing extremist comments on YouTube, including one saying that “Islam is for war, hostage taking, killing infidels, fighting tyranny, taking war booty, taking women of the enemy as concubines … don’t listen to those who tell you Islam means peace”.

The defendant called himself “sad and pathetic” and said he wanted to generate a reaction and receive notifications, adding: “I knew it would make people angry, create some kind of thrill to my life.”

Mr McGuinness said the other explanation was that the posts represented the way that Abu truly felt and thought.

But he denied it, adding: “It’s been a very hard year, during lockdown I was quarantined in my dad’s room with that phone spending hours on end on it … it sounds awful but it wasn’t in my heart. I’m not an Isis-supporting terrorist, I’m not.”

Mr Abu told the jury he was trying to change the direction of the Isis-supporting chat group he became part of, and had the group’s propaganda videos on his phone because he forgot to delete them after seeking information on his brothers.

The defendant said an Isis flag found in the wardrobe of his bedroom belonged to his father and had been there when he moved in, following his release from prison.

He added that he had made internet searches for the names of knife attackers because he had chanced across news articles, or was “interested in murders and whodunnits”.

The court heard that he called the Westminster and Reading attacker “brothers” in messages, but Mr Abu said it was an “Arabic thing” and did not show approval.

Mr Abu, who previously claimed to have been an aspiring rapper, told jurors that lyrics where he called himself a “straight Isis supporter” and said he was “trying to see many Lee Rigby’s heads rolling on the ground” were “not meant to be taken seriously”.

“This is just one rap I’ve made out of many many raps,” he said. “I didn’t think I was charged with creating raps.”

Mr Abu, of South Norwood in south London, denies preparing an act of terrorism. His brother, Muhamed Abu, of Dagenham, denies failing to disclose information about acts of terrorism. The trial continues.

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