A British man who was jailed in the US for supporting terrorism through the internet has said that he was “naive” to support the Taliban.
Speaking to BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire programme in his first broadcast interview, Babar Ahmed said that he regretted supporting the Taliban but that it was naivety which led him to do so.
He said: “Advocating support of the Taliban was to help establish an Islamic society but I do accept that with hindsight, that was naïve of me to do so…I regret doing that and it was naïve of me to do that, because it was a complicated situation.
“And whatever was going on then, I didn't have to advocate support for them.”
Babar Ahmad speaks to Victoria Derbyshire
Two articles on Ahmad’s Azzam website encouraged Muslims to send money and equipment to the Taliban, according to the BBC, and after a lengthy extradition battle, Ahmad was handed a 12 year jail sentence by a US judge in July 2014.
It took into account the 10 years he had already spent in prison in the UK before his extradition and so he was freed in June 2015.
At the time, Ahmad’s detention was the longest period any British citizen had been held without charge since the September 11 attacks.
Although he was never charged in the UK, Ahmad pleaded guilty to two counts of providing material support to terrorism in the US.
He was prosecuted in the US because of the role American authorities played in shutting down the Azzam network.
Delivering sentence at the time, US Judge Janet Hall said Ahmad helped allow Osama bin Laden to be protected when he was plotting the September 11 attacks by supporting the Taliban.
However, she stressed that he had no knowledge of the plot and there was no evidence he supported al-Qaeda.
Ahmad said that he had “not knowingly” supported bin Laden through his actions.
He also told Derbyshire that the so-called Islamic State (IS) terror group was “alien” to him.
He said: “[Islamic State] is alien to me. I mean, Jihad is something to be an Islamic history and heritage and beliefs. It's a noble act that's meant to protect and defend innocent people from acts of terror.
Ahmad was held in prison in the UK for 10 years
“And when terror and misery is brought to people, under the label of Jihad it's not Jihad, it's, God knows what it is but, no god tolerates terror and misery being brought to innocent people on behalf of some sort of cause.”
He added that he could understand why people might feel outraged about the treatment of Muslims in some countries but urged those who were attracted to militant groups not to be manipulated.
He said: "Ultimately, we are responsible for our actions and it's important that before people decide to take a course of action, before you translate your outrage into action, think deeply and carefully about what you are doing. And don't allow yourselves to be a pawn.
"Don't allow yourselves to be used by other people. Don't let anyone bully you, that the only way to paradise is by bringing misery upon innocent people who have done nothing to you. Make your own mind up. Be smart. Be intelligent. Do your research."