A 50-year-old man who spread Isis and al-Qaeda propaganda and turned Tony Blair into a virtual effigy has been convicted of multiple terrorism offences.
Gary Staples, from South London, was found guilty of seven counts of encouraging terrorism and one count of disseminating a terrorist publication following a two-week trial at the Old Bailey.
Detectives launched an investigation in August 2016, when they were made aware of a Google+ and associated YouTube accounts that had been posting regular and numerous extreme Islamist material and videos.
Whilst the accounts were all set up using pseudonyms, officers were able to identify the email addresses and phone numbers that had been used to create and verify the accounts, which then led them to identify Staples as the owner.
Staples was arrested at his home address on November 22, 2016 and officers seized a number of computer devices upon which they found evidence of the photo and video files that had been posted to the accounts. On the devices, officers also found evidence of the email addresses and login details, linked to the accounts as well as evidence that Staples had searched for extremist content related to Isis.
During questioning, Staples denied that he was responsible for the posting the terrorist-related content, despite admitting that the accounts had been set up using the devices and that the videos and images had also been posted from devices owned by him.
He claimed that two ‘friends’ he’d met at a mosque had been given access to his devices and must have posted the terrorist content. However, he was unable to provide full names for either of the men, any contact details for them, or get in touch with them - despite claiming that they had visited his house on several occasions and that they were responsible for the content which had been posted over several months.
After further enquiries, Staples was charged on 20 June 2017. During his trial, the court heard that he posted videos promoting Isis and Al-Qaeda, accompanied by Islamic-themed songs.
One of the videos showed Blair on fire, with the slogan “Blair lied and thousands died.” Another image glorified Osama bin Laden.
Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, said: “Staples was clearly publishing and sharing extremist and terrorist content, with a view to encouraging others to engage with and carry out acts of terrorism.
"He tried to avoid detection by using what he thought were anonymous usernames but we were able to trace them back to him. He then tried to make out that other people were using his computers to post the content, but was unable to provide any details of who these people were.
“The threat from terrorism is very real and anyone posting or sharing content like Staples is committing a serious offence. Where we find evidence of this happening, we will investigate and put those responsible before the courts as we have done here.
“I urge the public to continue to report anything suspicious or terrorist-related that they see online so that we can take a look and take appropriate action.”
The public should remain vigilant and any suspicious activity can be reported to the Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321 or in an emergency, call 999. More information about reporting online terrorist content can also be found at http://www.gov.uk/act.