A German man who shared propaganda videos that “glorified violence” by the so-called Islamic State group has been jailed for 40 months.
Florian Flegel, 23, from Ratingen, Germany, pleaded guilty to six counts of disseminating terrorist publications after officers found thousands of messages between himself and his friend Abdullah, who was living in Ratingen at the time.
During a sentence hearing at Woolwich Crown Court, the prosecuting barrister Jocelyn Ledward said some of the videos sent by Flegel included beheadings, bombing barracks with lorries full of explosives, a tank crushing someone to death, a suitcase full of knives, videos of “mass executions” and videos of himself doing the “one-finger salute”.
The court heard that Flegel came to the UK in March 2020 aged 22 and stayed with family friends in the East London neighbourhoods of Mile End and East Ham.
The court heard that Flegel remained in contact with Abdullah, who he described to the police as his “brother in faith”, during his time in the UK.
The pair began sending regular messages and videos to each other, some of which featured the flag of IS, that “glorified violence”, spoke about crucifixions, beheadings and carrying out attacks on police officers.
A total of 12,000 messages, including images, videos and voice notes, were sent between the pair from March until September 2020 on the social networking apps WhatsApp and Telegram.
While most of the messages were “mundane”, 31 graphic and violent videos were sent by Flegel to Abdullah.
Abdullah sent 24 videos in response.
Ms Ledward told the court: “Nonsense talk soon began to turn to more realistic plans, of carrying out acts of terrorism, each of them encouraging each other, interspersed with talks of them joining IS.”
She added that from August, there were a number of different types of attacks spoken about between the pair, “with a particular focus on beheading”.
She added that they began sending each other videos about hydrogen followed by “a number of flame emojis”.
During their messages, the court heard, Flegel stated several times that he believed he was under surveillance by police after having difficulty sending some videos on WhatsApp, prompting the pair to start using the messaging app Telegram.
“There are elements of the discussion which involve hyperbole and getting carried away, which is the driving tanks in Berlin, atom bombs and mass beheadings in a football stadium,” Ms Ledward said.
“When viewed overall, these discussions are grounded in more serious and realistic aspirations to carry out lone-wolf style attacks, using means at their disposal or knowledge that they could develop.”
Flegel began researching flights to Syria and the pair discussed how to cross the border from Turkey, where Abdullah was visiting family, to Syria, including on bicycles.
After Flegel fell out with his housemates and his landlord in East Ham, his stepfather booked him a flight back to Germany on October 12.
When he arrived at Stansted Airport that day, he was searched by officers before boarding his flight.
Officers found the Shahada, known as the declaration of faith, as the phone background of his iPhone 8.
They also found several violent videos on his phone, and two black flags with white Arabic script on them in his luggage.
He was arrested that same day and later pleaded guilty at Woolwich Crown Court on March 15.
Defending, Richard Thomas told the court Flegel was a young man who was immature and “was not seeking to share this material widely”, but rather with one person “who provided him with some of the original material in the first place”.
He added that Flegel had stated the messages were “idiotic” and he no longer held those views.
Mr Thomas said: “Some of it was due to his radicalisation, some was deliberate provocation, some of it is talk of a young man getting carried away.”
Flegel, who appeared in person and was assisted by a German interpreter, said nothing following his sentence.
Judge Andrew Lees handed him a special custodial sentence of 40 months for each offence, which will run concurrently, with an additional 12 months’ extended licence.
During sentencing, Judge Lees said: “There is no doubt following a consideration of the material that you hold an extremist Islamist mindset and you are a supporter of the Islamic State ideology.”
Flegel must serve two-thirds of his sentence before being considered for release by the parole board.
He is also subject to notification requirements under section 41 of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008 that run 10 years from release.
His iPhone 8 has also been forfeited.