A teacher accused of plotting a terror attack in the UK has admitted playing an Islamic State video in class to give students a “more holistic” view.
Umar Haque, 25, had allegedly resolved to strike landmarks including Big Ben and Westfield shopping centre in 2016 and early 2017, and hoped to inspire others to join in.
The Old Bailey has heard how he trained youngsters for terrorism at the Ripple Road mosque in Barking, east London, while swearing them to secrecy.
Haque also played an IS video while working at the Lantern of Knowledge School in Leyton, east London, between April 2015 and January 2016, the court heard.
The defendant told jurors he later came to support IS and felt attacks on the West were justified, although he denied planning to carry any out.
Giving evidence, Haque described his “shock” when one of his students requested an IS YouTube video at the end of term.
He said: “During my Islamic studies lessons I would always play videos relevant to the topic. It was the end of term. The most well behaved of the class, I told them you can pick a video.
“I was shocked that he says ‘Sir, I want to see an Isis video’.
“I said all right then. It was obviously not a good idea.”
He said he played it to give a “more holistic idea of what Islamic State are”.
He described 2015 as an “action-packed year for Europe” with a lot of terrorist attacks, including one in Paris.
He said he had talked about them at school because they “sparked curiosity” among his students.
He said: “Whenever these events happened I would say to them, because we are not exactly sure what happened, maybe they are good, their intentions are good but the media is twisting things telling only one side.”
By June 2016, he had concluded that attacks in the West were “justified” although he felt “heavy on the chest” about it, the court heard.
He told jurors: “I’m not happy to see bloodshed. I’m not a bloodthirsty person. The only reason why we agree with such attacks in the West is the fact the British government and the American government have killed thousands.
“That’s what bombs do to things – burn bodies. I’m empathising with them. I see why it is justified for attacks in the West.”
Joel Bennathan QC, defending, quizzed Haque on notebooks seized from his family home in Forest Gate, east London, which appeared to contain attack plans.
Haque admitted writing them but said they were only about a “theoretical battle”.
He said: “I was thinking if someone did want to launch an attack in the UK, how would someone go about it. This is based on a battle, a theoretical battle.
“I had no intention of turning this into a practicality.”
On his stash of IS magazines, he said: “I’m interested in the IS so I would download these publications. This is when I became an official supporter of IS.”
Haque was born in the East End to parents of Bangladeshi descent.
Before working at the Ripple Road mosque as an administrator from 2014, he had a job at Newham Council, he said.
He told jurors he became more religious around 2009 when he began listening to CDs of lectures by Al Qaida preacher Anwar al-Awlaki.
The court heard he had previously been cautioned for possessing cannabis at the age of 15 and had committed various driving offences.
Haque is on trial alongside Abuthaher Mamun, 19, Muhammad Abid, 27, and Nadeem Patel, 26, who he allegedly recruited through the mosque.
He and Mamun are accused of preparing acts of terrorism between March 25 and May 18 2017.
Haque is further charged with preparing terrorist acts by leading exercises in physical training and “role play” with children and dissemination of terrorist publications.
Abid is accused of having information about Haque’s plans and Patel is charged with plotting with Haque to possess a firearm or imitation firearm.
The defendants, who all lived in east London, have denied these charges.