A terror suspect was “shocked” to learn that MI5 agents tried to recruit a convicted terrorist as a spy by taking him to see Stoke City FC, a court heard.
Tahir Aziz, 38, heard about the proposed deal during a secret chat with his Islamist friend Mohibur Rahman, 32, who insisted on speaking face-to-face because he feared his phone was being tapped by the police.
Rahman revealed he had been taken to the VIP section of the Premier League club’s Britannia Stadium by two agents who tried to persuade him to act as an informant against hate preacher Anjem Choudary.
Aziz claims he was stunned when Rahman showed him a picture of the payment cheque he had turned down.
The former Primark worker told Old Bailey jurors “I wouldn’t have had nothing to do with him [Rahman]” if he suspected he had joined forces with the secret services.
Kieran Vaughan QC, defending Aziz, said: “Did he ever talk to you about MI5?”
Aziz replied: “He mentioned on some occasions where they had taken him, so for example when they took him to Britannia Stadium.
Credit: AP Photo/Tim Ireland
“They were trying to recruit him, they were offering him money.”
Mr Vaughan asked: “That’s what he told you?”
Aziz answered: “Yeah. I seen the picture of the cheque, the letter he had been sent. It was a bit of a shock that he was involved with the secret service.”
Mr Vaughan said: “Did that put you off being a friend of his?”
Aziz continued: “No, because he wasn’t up to anything.”
The defendant said he thought Rahman was “a bit odd” when he met him during Ramadan in 2015, while Mr Vaughan told jurors he ‘has been described as paranoid at times by various people’.
Aziz said: “He would say remarks like ‘oh, we shouldn’t talk about MI5’, things like that, ‘you don’t know who’s listening to your conversations’.
“You could just be talking about general stuff, Syria or the infighting between Isis and Al Qaeda.
“He didn’t trust phones, he just generally didn’t trust mobile phones.”
Aziz said he also turned down the chance to work with counter terror officers after police raided his home in Stoke and seized his family’s electronic devices during a search in January last year.
“They took my sister’s laptop, my mum’s phone, dad’s phone, they took everything that there was connected to the internet,” he added.
When Aziz attended a police station in February 2016 to get his property back after it had been analysed “police wanted to engage with him to assess his stance on Islam”, the court heard.
“Aziz spoke of his moderate take on Islam and his desire to be a good father and son,” said Mr Vaughan.
Counter terror officers warned Aziz about the content on his phone and the laws on extremism and then said they wanted to work with him, but jurors heard “he didn’t seem keen”.
He is on trial accused of plotting a knife rampage with Rahman, Naweed Ali, 29, and Khobaib Hussain, 25, who called themselves the “Three Musketeers” and allegedly shared ‘”the same radical belief in violent jihad”.
Prosecutors say the terror plot involved a samurai sword and a meat cleaver with the word “Kafir” scratched onto the blade.
The Old Bailey heard all four men were arrested after a stash of weapons, ammunition, and a half-made pipe bomb were found in Ali’s black Seat Leon car in Birmingham following a “covert technical operation” on August 26 last year.
They deny all charges and claim evidence has been planted by MI5 agents to frame them.
Ali and Hussain, both of Sparkhill, Birmingham, Rahman, and Aziz, both in Stoke, each deny a single charge of preparing for acts of terrorism between 25 May and August 27 last year under Section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006.
The trial continues.