Terrorists freed early to be sent back to jail

Hayley Dixon
A woman places flowers with other floral tributes close to London Bridge in the City of London - AFP

A close associate of the London Bridge attacker was arrested on Sunday night in a crackdown that could see a number of terrorists returned to jail, The Telegraph can reveal.

Nazam Hussain, 34, was arrested on suspicion of preparing terrorist acts.

He was one of 74 convicted terrorists  being vetted in the wake of Friday’s attack and sources have told The Telegraph “a number” are expected to be sent back to prison in the coming days. The arrest was not linked to the London Bridge attack, police said.

Nazam Hussain

Hussain and Usman Khan were jailed in 2012 for terrorist offences. They were both released on licence on the same day in December after their sentences were reduced on appeal.

It comes as the second victim of Khan’s attack was named as Saskia Jones, a 23-year-old University of Cambridge graduate who recently applied to join the police.

She was a volunteer with the university’s Learning Together programme and attended the five-year anniversary event for the prisoner rehabilitation scheme at Fishmongers’ Hall where Khan began his rampage.

Saskia Jones, 23, is named as the female victim killed in the London Bridge terror attack

 Boris Johnson sought to blame Labour for the early release of Khan, who killed two people in the attack, as the political row over the atrocity intensified.

The Prime Minister said Khan, who was freed halfway through a 16-year jail sentence, was on the streets because of laws introduced by a “Leftie government”.

But Jeremy Corbyn said cuts to public services had contributed to the terrorist attack, warning that people cannot be kept safe “on the cheap”.

Jack Merritt was killed on Friday but the London bridge stabber

The Telegraph can also disclose that Mr Corbyn protested against the extradition of British terror suspects to the US as Anjem Choudary, a mentor to the London Bridge attacker, led another rally for the same cause just yards away, in 2012.

Separately it emerged that venues which host large events should legally put in place a plan to respond to terror attacks rather than relying on “have-a-go heroes’. Sixty nine victims of terror attacks wrote to today’s Telegraph asking for new rules to “mandate all owners of events spaces to have in place a basic security plan”.

Jack Merritt, the first victim of the London Bridge attack to be named, is believed to have worked with Khan when the terrorist was imprisoned at the high-security HMP Whitemoor.

A police officer stands next to forensic tents outside a property, which was searched in connection with stabbing on London Bridge, in Stafford Credit: Reuters 

It has emerged that Khan, who was shot dead by police on Friday, was seen as a success story of Learning Together, which Mr Merritt worked for.

He was used as a case study by the initiative to highlight its work with ex-offenders.

Staff members even took part in a 10km run to raise money to buy Khan a computer on his release so he could continue writing, despite stringent bail conditions that prevented him from using the internet. He sent them a thank-you note saying the project had a “special place in my heart” and was “more than just an organisation”.

Usman Khan seen in Learning Together material 

But last week, Khan, 28, used his connection to the project to circumvent his licence conditions and get permission to go to London unsupervised.

In the wake of the attack, Mr Johnson announced that the Government was reviewing the licence terms of 74 jihadists who were freed. The Prime Minister told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One that “the 74 other individuals who’ve been let out early ... are being properly invigilated so as to make sure there is no threat to the public”.

Ministry of Justice officials are said to have worked through the weekend to vet the criminals, with Robert Buckland, the Justice Secretary, taking charge and expecting a report on all of them on his desk last night.

Officials trawled through emails, call records and meetings with other former extremists to “make sure the licensing conditions have been complied with, if not why not”. One source said “a number” would be returned to prison in the coming days.

Hussain was visited by West Midlands Police officers assisting with the reviews at his home in Stoke-on-Trent on Saturday night. Whilst checking that he was complying with the terms of his licence they are understood to have found material that caused concern and he was taken into custody.

A West Midlands spokesman said a 34-year-old had been arrested “on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts contrary to Section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006.

Floral tributes for victims of the terrorist attack, including Jack Merritt, left on London Bridge Credit: PA 

“These searches continue. There is no information to suggest that the arrested man was involved in the incident at London Bridge on Friday. There was no immediate risk to public safety.”

Hussain and Khan’s parents came from the same village in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and the pair were close friends, growing up in Stoke-on-Trent.

Disciples of the hate preacher Choudary, they planned to travel to Pakistan in January 2011, but were arrested the month before.

Hussain and Khan were given indeterminate sentences for public protection. But in April 2013, both successfully appealed and were instead given 16-year sentences, which meant they were eligible for release in December last year.

While Khan moved to Stafford, Hussain returned to his family home in Stoke. Sources stressed that he was not arrested for breaching his bail conditions.

Forensic officers walk outside a property, which is being searched in connection with stabbing on London Bridge, in Stoke-on-Trent Credit: Reuters 

Convicted terrorists who are released from prison under licence are required to follow a strict set of conditions. These include things like not using the internet, not mixing with former associates, keeping to a strict curfew and only attending an approved mosque.

As part of the review into convicted terrorists on licence, The Telegraph understands that former inmates will be banned from attending and speaking at events such as the one where Khan carried out his attack on Friday. He had been allowed to attend a similar event in Whitehall earlier this year with an escort. However, last week he was given permission to travel to London unattended to attend the Learning Together seminar.