Foreign Secretary urges China to let UN human-rights commissioner visit Xinjiang

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has called on China to allow the United Nations (UN) to visit a province where it is accused of “appalling” human-rights abuses against the Uighur minority group.

Mr Raab said reports of internment camps and women being forcibly sterilised in Xinjiang were “truly shocking” and that authorities in Beijing should permit the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit the sites.

The Chinese government has denied accusations of widespread abuse in the north-western province, mainly targeted at the Uighur minority group, including allegations of forced sterilisation, slave labour and mass internment.

Appearing on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, Mr Raab was asked what the UK Government was doing amid accusations that China was holding a million Uighur people in “re-education camps” and women were subject to forced sterilisation.

Mr Raab said the Government had recently announced measures that would make sure “we don’t have any British businesses that are either supplying to or profiting from the internment camps”.

Earlier this month, Mr Raab announced that firms will face hefty fines unless they meet requirements showing their supply chains are free from forced labour and will be given robust guidance on how to carry out due diligence checks to make sure they are not sourcing products tainted by the human-rights violations.

Speaking on Sunday, Mr Raab said: “I think it’s a shocking, truly shocking, set of circumstances in Xinjiang, against the Uighur Muslims.”

Mr Raab said 38 other countries had followed the UK’s lead in “criticising and condemning human-rights abuses” in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

During the interview, Sky News presenter Sophy Ridge read to Mr Raab a tweet she said was sent by the Chinese embassy in the US discussing “eradicating extremism” and making Uighur women “no longer baby-making machines”.

She said: “I just want to be clear, we’re talking here about people being forced to have abortions, given injections to stop their periods, having surgery in some cases, so they’re unable to have children. Are words of condemnation and a few restrictions on British business really enough?”

Mr Raab replied: “It’s absolutely disgraceful. It’s appalling and shocking in the modern world, in a leading member of the international community, and, no, this isn’t enough.

“What China says is this is all lies cooked up by the West, and Britain a leading member amongst them.

“What we say is if you dispute the allegations and the claims and the reports, there’s a simple way to clear this up: allow the UN Human Rights Commissioner to visit and access and see these sites.

“We are pushing for an authoritative third party, like the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the UN, to conduct that visit.”

Mr Raab was also asked if he thought the treatment of the Uighur minority group in China was genocide and if the issue would be put on the agenda of the G7 summit that the UK is due to host in June.

He said: “I think it’s for a court to decide whether the very complex definition of genocide is met.

“But what is clear, frankly, whatever legal label you put on it, is that there are convincing and persuasive third party authoritative reports of serious violations of human rights on an appalling industrial scale.”

He said the UK was “excited” to work with the incoming President Joe Biden administration in the US on “making sure human rights and protecting democracy is on the agenda”.

Mr Raab added: “As we preside over the G7, and it’s an exciting year for international leadership for the UK, that will be the case, and I’ve already talked with Nancy Pelosi, Speaker Pelosi of the House of Representatives, recently, including speaking to her over the Christmas period.”

Read more: Anger as China says it is freeing Uighur women from being ‘baby-making machines’

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Categories: China, Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary, News, UN human-rights commissioner

Multicultural centre fire being treated as hate crime in Belfast

Police believe a fire that extensively damaged a multicultural centre in Belfast was started deliberately.

Officers are treating the blaze at the Belfast Multi-Cultural Association property on Donegall Pass in the south of the city as a hate crime.

Vehicles belonging to people working at the centre have previously been vandalised in hate crime incidents.

More than 50 firefighters fought the blaze, which started at around 9pm on Thursday. Seven fire appliances were used to bring the flames under control.

The damage to the property was visible on Friday, with much of the roof of the historic building destroyed.

No-one was inside when the fire started and there were no injuries reported.

The building was being used as a food bank, with volunteers distributing packages to vulnerable people during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a statement, the association said it had been on the “receiving end of a lot of hostility and Islamophobia for years”.

It added: “We are heartbroken and shocked by these events but it will not deter us from any of our work. Our volunteers, despite shaken, are determined not to let down the communities we support.

“Thank-you to everyone who have been in contact to check up on us and extended their support and solidarity. We are immensely grateful for it all.”

Stormont Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey visited the centre on Friday afternoon to view the damage and speak to members of the association.

Ms Hargey, who is also an MLA for the area, said she would work to find a temporary home to allow the association to continue its work.

“My concern now as Minister for Communities and also as a local MLA is turning to support the organisation, who are carrying out vital work in south Belfast and indeed across the city, supporting minority ethnic communities but indeed the whole community with essential frontline services, and particularly in the midst of a public health pandemic,” she said.

“I want to work with them in terms of what the department can do to support them and working with other agencies such as Belfast City Council to look at relocating them on an interim basis and to ensure that they can continue the support that they’re providing to the community in the time ahead.”

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Categories: Belfast, Belfast multi-cultural association, hate crime, Multicultural centre, News, Stormont

Women face new trial in Egypt for ‘indecent’ videos on TikTok

An Egyptian judge overturned an acquittal verdict of two young women who were jailed last year for posting “indecent” videos on the social media video app TikTok, ordering their pretrial detention for 15 days over fresh charges of “human trafficking”, a judicial source said.

A Cairo court has accused 20-year-old student Haneen Hossam and 22-year-old Mawada Eladhm of recruiting young women for “indecent jobs that violate the principles and values of the Egyptian society”, the judicial official said.

Thursday’s motion came just two days after an appeals court had acquitted the two women and ordered their release.

Last summer, an Egyptian court of first instance sentenced Hossam and Adham along with another three women to two years in prison for “violating the values and principles of the Egyptian family”, inciting debauchery and promoting human trafficking.

The verdict came after the two women had vaulted to TikTok fame, amassing millions of followers for their video snippets set to catchy Egyptian club-pop tracks.

In their respective 15-second clips, the women wearing makeup pose in cars, dance in kitchens and joke in skits — familiar and seemingly tame content for the platform.

The two women were also fined 300,000 Egyptian pounds (nearly 19,000 US dollars).

Their case drew the ire of Egyptian feminists who dismissed the prosecution of Hossam and Adham as another example of their conservative society’s encroachment on women’s freedoms.

At the time, women’s rights advocates circulated an online petition describing the arrests as a “systematic crackdown that targets low-income women”.

Although Egypt remains far more liberal than Gulf Arab states, the Muslim-majority country has swung in a decidedly conservative direction over the past half-century.

Belly dancers, pop divas and social media influencers have faced backlash for violating the norms.

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Categories: Adham, Belly dancers, Egyptian feminists, Egyptian judge, Hossam, News, TikTok

Security company wrote ‘Allahu Akbar’ on fake bomb in Heathrow exercise

One of the UK’s biggest security firms planted a fake bomb at a Heathrow airport train station with the words “Allahu Akbar” written in Arabic on it during a training exercise.

Redline Assured Security, which counts the Ministry of Defence and the British Transport Police as clients on its website, defended the decision at an employment tribunal, saying it was used to make the package look “suspicious”.

The company subsequently stopped using the phrase after a Muslim member of staff complained that it was discriminatory.

A tribunal held in December 2020 found that the practice did not constitute direct discrimination but called the decision to no longer make the association between Islam and terrorism in exercises as “sensible”.

Anis Ali, a train driver for Heathrow Express and NHS volunteer, took the company to a tribunal hearing last month claiming religious discrimination over the incident in 2017.

The tribunal also heard that a train driver, duty station manager and Mr Ali’s then-employer, Heathrow Express, unlawfully harassed him, related to religion and belief, after colleagues told him that Muslims “groom and rape Sikh and white women”. They were ordered to pay compensation totalling £4,000.

The complaint against the pair and Heathrow Express was upheld, with the tribunal saying that their actions created a “hostile and degrading environment”, in a judgment published this week.

Redline’s decision to use the wording in a bomb exercise came less than a year after Greater Manchester Police were forced to apologise after a fake suicide bomber shouted “Allahu Akbar” during a simulated terrorist attack at the city’s Trafford Centre shopping complex.

The company’s operations director, Mark Rutherford, told the employment tribunal in a witness statement: “The only purpose of the note is to ensure that the package looked obviously suspicious and was added by the covert team leader to reflect just one of the current threats that were present in the UK at the time.”

He added: “We would often use English words and text that is designed to raise suspicion too, e.g. ‘Animal Testing must STOP now’ or ‘No Third Runway’.”

The judges at the hearing said it was legitimate to “reinforce the ‘suspicious’ nature of its packages by referring to known threats and matters connected with previous terrorist incidents”.

But they welcomed Redline’s decision to stop using the phrase in exercises as a “sensible precaution against further complaints being made”.

The tribunal did however find that Heathrow Express failed to protect Mr Ali from harassment from two members of staff – Davinder Hare and Narinder Rai.

Mr Hare, who is Sikh, initially made a complaint against Mr Ali, claiming he should not continue wearing a Sikh bracelet – a Kara – because he is a Muslim.

In a complaint presented to the tribunal, Mr Hare drew comparisons between the convicted grooming gangs in the north-east of England and Mr Ali.

Mr Hare told his employer, according to tribunal documents, to “look at the grooming cases recently in the north of England in the last few years where white girls were being groomed and raped”.

He subsequently shared what the tribunal described as “inflammatory material about Muslims” saying “Muslims are sons of the devils”.

His colleague Mr Rai, who was also found to have unlawfully harassed Mr Ali claiming, according to the tribunal ruling, “Muslim individuals wearing (sic) this symbol to seduce Sikh girls to groom them”.

The judgment found both respondents had made complaints against Mr Ali “in a manner which invokes the grossest stereotypes of why a Muslim may be wearing a Kara”.

Mr Rai is now a union representative for Aslef and works for Great Western Railway as a train driver instructor.

Mr Hare remains in his position as a duty station manager for Heathrow Express.

A GWR spokesman said: “We are committed to a working environment where we expect colleagues to be treated with respect and dignity at all times. Bullying, harassment, victimisation and discrimination are not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”

A Heathrow Express spokesperson said: “Heathrow Express is committed to providing an inclusive working environment where everyone feels valued and respected.

“We apologise that we didn’t live up to that commitment on this occasion but we will review and fully address and implement the findings of the tribunal.”

Redline and Aslef declined to comment.

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Categories: Allahu Akbar, Anis Ali, fake bomb, Heathrow Airport, Heathrow Express, News, Security exercise, UK's biggest security firm

Fire destroys hundreds of homes in Rohingya refugee camp

A fire has raced through a sprawling Rohingya refugee camp in southern Bangladesh, destroying hundreds of homes, officials said.

No casualties were reported, but the UNHCR said more than 550 homes sheltering about 3,500 people as well as 150 shops were totally or partially destroyed in the fire.

The fire broke out early on Thursday in Nayapara Camp in the Cox’s Bazar district, where more than a million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are staying. Nayapara is an old camp that was started decades ago.

Mohammed Shamsud Douza, a senior refugee official, said firefighters took two hours to bring the blaze under control.

No serious injuries were reported, and the cause of the fire was not immediately known.

A video showed many refugees searching through charred corrugated iron sheets for valuables.

“This is another devastating blow for the Rohingya people who have endured unspeakable hardship for years,” Save the Children’s country director in Bangladesh, Onno van Manen, said in a statement.

“Today’s devastating fire will have robbed many families of what little shelter and dignity was left to them.”

About 700,000 Rohingya fled to the camps in Cox’s Bazar after August 2017, when the military in Buddhist-majority Myanmar began a harsh crackdown on the Muslim group following an attack by insurgents.

The crackdown included rapes, killings and the torching of thousands of homes, and was termed ethnic cleansing by global rights groups and the UN.

Read more: First Rohingya refugees arrive at isolated Bangladesh island

Rohingya Muslims drown whilst escaping fighting in Myanmar

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Categories: Cox's Bazaar, fire, News, Refugee camp, Rohingya Muslims

Temporary mortuary for 1,300 bodies ‘sobering reminder’ of coronavirus impact

A new temporary mortuary that can hold up to 1,300 bodies has been built in London as the capital faces a growing Covid-19 death toll.

A council leader described how the newly-built facility in north-west London acted as a “sobering reminder” of how the pandemic is affecting thousands of lives as he urged people to follow Covid-19 rules.

More than 10,500 people have died from Covid-19 in London since the start of the outbreak and the city’s mayor Sadiq Khan declared a major incident last week as hospitals came under increasing pressure.

The Ruislip facility is the latest of a number of temporary mortuaries set up across the country, including at the former military hospital Headley Court in Leatherhead, Surrey, and at a former aircraft hangar at RAF Coltishall north-east of Norwich.

It took just over a week to construct the facility on the site near Breakspear Crematorium in Ruislip.

It can currently hold 217 bodies, but will reach a capacity of 1,300 once building works are completed around January 20.

It will provide an additional 20% in capacity for public mortuaries in London, helping to relieve pressure on hospitals and council-run morgues.

Since the pandemic began, 10,820 deaths have been registered in London where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

The figures, from the Office for National Statistics, show that 492 deaths involving Covid-19 were registered in the capital in the seven days to January 1 – the highest weekly number since the seven days to May 1.

Westminster City Council chief executive Stuart Love, who is leading the pan-London response, said local authorities worked with faith communities in the capital to ensure all religious requirements, wishes and needs were met.

When asked whether he thought the temporary mortuary could reach full capacity in the current wave of the pandemic, he said: “We really hope it doesn’t come to that.

“From my point of view, we have built this really hoping it doesn’t get used to its capacity.

“This really is a visual, sobering reminder that we are still in the midst of a severe pandemic. We want to give people hope but we are not there yet.

“This just re-emphasises the message of staying at home and looking after your loved ones.”

During the first wave of the pandemic, four temporary mortuaries were built in London to provide extra capacity.

Mr Love said those sites were decommissioned and a decision was made to open one hub in north-west London instead, making the process of storing bodies more streamlined.

“We learnt from the first wave how additional capacity was or was not being used and that informed our decision-making this time round,” he said.

The entire Ruislip site, made up of tented facilities with refrigeration units, has cost £3.2 million, with the total expected to reach £4 million by March, Mr Love added.

“As the number of deaths have increased, particularly since Christmas Eve, we made the decision to build temporary capacity with the overriding principle of ensuring the dignity and respect for the bereaved and the diseased are maintained.

“It’s really important that people have confidence that bodies are being treated with respect.

“As mortuary capacity needs increase so do the risks around various elements of the system in storing the diseased.”

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Categories: Coronavirus, COVID-19, News, Ruislip, Temporary mortuary

Covid-19: Disabled Muslim woman told “to go back to where you came from” so the “virus will leave with you”

A disabled Muslim woman described how a racist elderly couple shouted at her for not wearing a face mask, and, having detailed her medical exemption via her sunflower lanyard, was told to “go back to where you came from” so the “virus will leave with you” in a Lidl car park in Kent.

They also called her a “f****** idiot” and told her to educate herself.

Speaking to Tell MAMA in confidence, the woman, who wears the hijab, described how she felt ‘more targeted’ as the couple wilfully ignored a white male who had also been wearing a sunflower lanyard.

The anti-Muslim and Islamophobic incident occurred on the afternoon of December 30.

To further protect their identity, we are not disclosing the exact store location but can confirm that Kent Police are investigating.

As governmental advice makes clear: If you have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering or mask, you do not routinely need to show any written evidence, nor provide evidence of an exemption card.

For those wanting to use an exemption card or badge, however, a template can be downloaded for free from the website.

Last October, Nick Ephgrave, the Assistant Commissioner at the Metropolitan Police, told the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee that a ‘common trigger’ in rising levels of racist hate crimes last year concerned arguments over the use or non-use of face masks.

“Someone will challenge someone about the use or not of a face mask, and then in the course of that interaction will then use racist language,” he said.

Tell MAMA has documented the targeting of Muslims during the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, including a shocking and vile assault where a racist male coughed in the face of a Muslim woman and told her he had the coronavirus. Other examples include a Muslim man being told by a fellow customer that they would “deport him” after he had requested that maintain social distancing in a department store.

More broadly, the process of racialisation, which some academics argue, relates to the essentialist characteristics attached to a group based on physical or cultural traits (including language, clothing, and religious practices), as the process of racialisation not only crystalises by reference to their faith but also their articles of clothing, for example.

For white Muslims and converts in Britain, as in this example, other research from academics explores how they become ‘not-quite-white’, or ‘non-white’, due to ‘persistent conflation’ of Islam as a ‘non-white’ religion.

Other as research explored its relation to the political, economic, and political marginalisation of groups.

Gendered and harmful stereotypes of Muslim women who wear the hijab (or other forms of religious clothing) as being ‘meek and submissive’ continues to be explored in Tell MAMA’s research reports.

You can get advice from our confidential and free helpline on 0800 456 1226. Or through our free iOS or Android apps. Report through our online form. Or contact us via WhatsApp on 0734 184 6086.








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Categories: COVID-19, face mask, hate crime, Kent, News

Reading terror attacker handed whole-life sentence for park murders

The Reading terror attacker who murdered three men in a park in a “swift, ruthless and brutal” knife attack has been handed a whole-life sentence.

Khairi Saadallah, 26, shouted “Allahu akhbar” as he fatally stabbed friends James Furlong, 36, Dr David Wails, 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, on June 20 last year.

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Categories: James Furlong, Khairi Saadallah, News, Reading terror attacker, Whole life sentence

Anger as China says it is freeing Uighur women from being ‘baby-making machines’

A Chinese official denied Beijing has imposed coercive birth control measures among Muslim minority women, following an outcry over a tweet by the Chinese Embassy in Washington claiming that government polices had freed women of the Uighur ethnic group from being “baby-making machines”.

Xu Guixiang, a deputy spokesperson for the Xinjiang regional government, told reporters that birth control decisions were made of the person’s own free will and that “no organisation or individual can interfere”.

“The growth rate of the Uighur population is not only higher than that of the whole Xinjiang population, but also higher than that of the minority population, and more significantly higher than that of the (Chinese majority) Han population,” Mr Xu said.

“As for the so-called forcing ethnic minority women in Xinjiang to wear IUDs, or undergo tubal ligations or abortions, it is even more malign.”

An investigation in June found that the Chinese government was forcing draconian birth control measures on Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, including IUD fittings, contraceptives, and even abortions and sterilisations.

The measures are backed by the threat of detention, with parents with three or more children swept into camps and prisons if they are unable to pay massive fines.

As a result, the birth rate in Xinjiang’s minority regions plummeted by over 60% in just three years, even as Beijing eases birth restrictions on the Han population ahead of a looming demographic crisis.

Twitter took down the Chinese Embassy’s January 7 tweet following protests by groups that accuse Beijing of seeking to eradicate Uighur culture.

Users complained the tweet was a violation of rules set by Twitter, which is blocked in China along with Facebook and other American social media platforms.

“China’s fascist government is now openly admitting and celebrating its use of concentration camps, forced labour, forced sterilisations and abortions, and other forms of torture to eliminate an ethnic and religious minority,” Nihad Awad, national executive director of The Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in an emailed statement.

China has been waging a years-long campaign against what it calls terrorism and religious fanaticism in Xinjiang and the embassy’s tweet referenced those polices, saying: “Study shows that in the process of eradicating extremism, the minds of Uygur women in Xinjiang were emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted, making them no longer baby-making machines.”

The tweet cited a study by Li Xiaoxia, a Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences researcher who has asserted that the birth control measures in Xinjiang are voluntary.

Ms Li’s papers in past years laid the theoretical foundations for justifying mass birth control measures.

In one 2017 paper, Ms Li said having many children was a sign of “religious extremism and ethnic separatism”.

Ms Li worried that predominantly minority districts were breeding grounds for terrorism, calling it “a big political risk”.

Monday’s news conference was the latest attempt by Beijing to deflect rising international criticism over its policies in Xinjiang, particularly over alleged forced labour and the detention of more than one million Uighurs, Kazakhs and others in prison-like centres for political indoctrination.

China says the centres are intended to combat extremism and teach job skills, but former residents and rights groups say they target Islam and minority languages and culture.

Elijan Anayat, another regional government spokesperson, said all those at the centres had “graduated” as of October 2019, countering reports that China continues to expand the system.

“With the help of the government, they have achieved stable employment, improved the quality of life and lived a normal life,” Mr Anayat said.

“At present, there is no education and training centre in Xinjiang.”

Read more: China: Newspaper blames West for encouraging Xinjiang extremists

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Categories: birth rates, China, Chinese Embassy, Muslim Uighurs, News, Xinjiang

Terrorist stabbed three people to death in less than a minute, court told

Three men were “executed” in a Reading park by a “ruthlessly efficient” terrorist in less than one minute, a court has heard.

Khairi Saadallah, 26, shouted “Allahu akhbar” during the violent spree which left teacher James Furlong, 36, scientist David Wails, 49, and US citizen Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, dead.

Three other people – Stephen Young, Patrick Edwards and Nishit Nisudan – were also injured before Saadallah threw away the knife and ran off, pursued by an off-duty police officer.

The failed Libyan asylum seeker had launched the attacks in Forbury Gardens, Reading, as the victims were enjoying a summer evening on June 20 last year after the first lockdown restrictions in England were relaxed.

Roger Smith, who was among the victims’ group, saw Mr Ritchie-Bennett “just going over sideways, like a tree being felled” as he was stabbed in the neck.

He said it “all happened really quickly” and was like a “weird dream”.

Another eyewitness, Andrew Cafe, said: “I saw him holding the knife and as he was charging towards us he shouted ‘Allah Akbar’.”

As Saadallah was detained, a Muslim member of the public told him: “You have nothing to do with Islam, bastard,” adding: “I am just livid.”

Following his arrest, Saadallah initially said he wanted to plead guilty to the “jihad that I done” but later feigned mental illness in police interviews.

Saadallah, of Basingstoke Road, Reading, pleaded guilty to three murders and three attempted murders and appeared at the Old Bailey on Tuesday for the start of his sentencing.

Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC said Saadallah aimed to kill as many people as possible in the name of violent jihad.

She said: “In just half a minute, the defendant was able to inflict catastrophic injuries to three people and serious injuries to three others.

“The prosecution’s case was that this was not an accident. This was not a frenzied attack by someone wielding a knife in a random, uncontrolled manner.

“The defendant was aiming to inflict the maximum amount of damage in the shortest possible time to allow him to kill as many people as possible.

“In effect, the killings of Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, David Wails and James Furlong were highly effective executions.”

Mr Ritchie-Bennett and Mr Furlong both suffered single stab wounds to the neck, and Mr Wails was stabbed once to the back.

Ms Morgan said the defendant was “ruthlessly efficient” in his actions, having planned and executed the attack with “determination and precision”.

The court heard that Saadallah, who arrived in Britain in 2012, had previously been involved with militias who had been part of the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi and was pictured handling weapons, including firearms.

Since living in Britain he had been repeatedly arrested and convicted of various offences, including theft and assault, between 2013 and last year.

He developed an emotionally unstable and anti-social personality disorder, with his behaviour worsened by alcohol and cannabis misuse, the court was told.

In 2017, the “impressionable and volatile” defendant associated at HMP Bullingdon with prominent radical preacher Omar Brooks, who is associated with the banned terrorist organisation Al-Muhajiroun.

An examination of his mobile phone revealed his interest in extremist material, including the flag of the so-called Islamic State and Jihadi John.

The court was told Saadallah was released from HMP Bullingdon on June 5, just days before the attack.

He then researched the location for his attack online and carried out reconnaissance on June 17, the court heard.

On June 18, he was in contact with his probation officer who alerted his mental health team over concern about comments Saadallah had made about “magic”.

Saadallah contacted the crisis team himself, but when they visited him on June 19, he did not open the door.

Police visited him the same day, prompted by concerns from his brother, but Saadallah insisted he was “alright”, while standing near a knife he had bought from Morrisons supermarket.

The court heard that a psychiatrist had since concluded that the events of June 20 were “unrelated to the effects of either mental disorder or substance misuse”.

Mr Justice Sweeney adjourned the hearing until Wednesday and said the sentencing would conclude on Monday.

Read more: Mayor tells Reading community, we will not be divided

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Categories: Islamist attack, Khairi Saadallah, Knife Attack, News, Reading attack, Sentencing