A student who tried to murder an east London Labour MP after being inspired by a radical al Qaida cleric linked to the air cargo bomb plot has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 15 years. Roshonara Choudhry, 21, stabbed East Ham MP Stephen Timms twice in the stomach after watching online jihadi sermons by US-born extremist Anwar al-Awlaki.
Her attack on the former Treasury minister is thought to be the first al Qaida-inspired attempt to assassinate a politician on British soil.
She knifed Mr Timms as he held a constituency surgery at the Beckton Globe community centre in east London on May 14, smiling and pretending she was going to shake hands with him before plunging the knife into his body.
After being disarmed by the politician’s assistant and held by a security guard, she was arrested and told detectives the stabbing was “punishment” and “to get revenge for the people of Iraq”, the Old Bailey heard. Another knife was found in her bag which she said she had planned to use if the first one broke. She had also drawn up a list of other MPs who had voted in support of the military action in Iraq.
Choudhry, of Central Park Road, East Ham, east London, was found guilty of attempted murder and two counts of having an offensive weapon.
Mr Justice Cooke, sentencing Choudhry, said: “You said you ruined the rest of your life. You said it was worth it. You said you wanted to be a martyr.”
The judge said Choudhry would continue to be a danger to Members of Parliament for the foreseeable future. The judge said that if Choudhry had succeeded in killing Mr Timms he would have given her a whole-life sentence, meaning she would never be released.
Wearing a black headscarf, she spoke only to confirm her name when she appeared by videolink. She sat placidly, blinking behind her glasses, as she watched proceedings on a screen in front of her. She did not appear for the trial because she refused to recognise the jurisdiction of the court.
After the sentence was passed, the videolink was turned off as a group of men began shouting in the public gallery “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”), “British go to hell” and “Curse the judge”. A small demonstration was taking place outside the court.
In response to the conviction of Roshonara Choudhry, for the attempted murder of the Labour MP for East Ham, Stephen Timms, the Muslim Council of Britain released the following statement:
‘The Old Bailey has heard that Roshonara Choudhry stabbed the Labour MP for East Ham, Stephen Timms, because he voted for the Iraq war. The MCB is appalled by this reasoning which reflects an aberrant personality. Political differences must be resolved in forums of discussion and debate and not by such mindless acts’.
‘The MCB has had the privilege of Mr Timms attending its events, and he has been a keynote speaker at our Islamic Finance conferences. Stephen is a well-known and trusted MP within his very diverse constituency, including many Muslims, who feel deeply hurt by this incident and he remains in our prayers’.