At the end of 2019, an anonymous hacker, identified only as “antifa-data”, leaked the usernames, emails and IP addresses of each account into the known white predominant message board. Authorities soon learned that one of the accounts belonged to the police chief.
Now that the London Underground police officer, 22-year-old Benjamin Hannam has become the first British police officer convicted of terrorism-related crimes, BBC News reports.
Hanam was convicted on Thursday of lying about his membership in a far-right group called National Operation, passing past checks and securing a job in the police. He pleaded guilty to having a prohibited image of the child, according to a statement from the Crown Prosecutor’s Office.
National Action was recognized as a terrorist organization in the United Kingdom, and prosecutors described it as “a neo-Nazi organization that advocated homophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, incitement to violence and inter-ethnic hatred.” Joining the group became a criminal offense in the UK in 2016.
Prosecutors said Hannam denied that he had ever been a member of the group, but his online records and other evidence indicate that he was once actively involved.
“Benjamin Hannam would not have been given a probationary job if he had told the truth about being banned from the far-right group,” said Annie Hopkins, head of the Crown Prosecution’s Special Crimes and Counter-Terrorism Unit, in a statement on Thursday.
Hannam first joined the London Underground Police in 2018. Growing up, friends and family testified at the trial that he showed no obvious signs of racism, the BBC reports. He had an African Muslim girlfriend, a stepfather, who was Jewish. But one of the teachers told the court that he would send a letter that was alarmingly anti-Muslim, according to the BBC.
He was still a police probation officer when the agency found his name in the list of more than 1,200 far-right extremists posted on the white-dominated Iron March website.
The data of Iron March users was hacked և published online in November 2019 by an anonymous account belonging to an anti-fascist individual or group.
“Subway police began searching for leaks for extremists in the UK when they came across an” English “username,” Richard Smith, the force’s counterterrorism commander, told a news conference, according to the Independent.
“We’ve been doing some work on that account since 2016, linking it to Hannam’s address,” Smith said. “At that moment, our investigation revealed that he was a probation officer at the time.”
Smith calculated the “Iron March” leak to launch an investigation that prompted police to identify Hannam’s association with National Operation.
“It is clear that in this case the leak of the ironclad started an investigation,” he said, “but that does not mean that we would not have received information from elsewhere, we would not have known him.”
When police officers searched his leaked posts, they discovered that Hannam had posted them several times on the “Iron March” website, which was known for attracting self-confident neo-Nazis from 2016 to 2017.
He posted a selfie showing that he was wearing a Nazi uniform with a “Hitler mustache” on his upper lip, prosecutors said. In another image, he spray-painted the National Action Symbol on the storm drain side. Another photo showed Hannam boxing in the woods with other members of an extremist group.
In an introductory post on the website, Hannam wrote that he was “disappointed” after “seeing what is happening to my country,” the Independent reported. In the messages, he described himself as a fascist, saying that he was part of the London branch of National Operation. In April 2016, Hannam responded to another member of the message board who expressed a desire to join the National Action. “It’s always good to have more people join, it means we can organize more things, which is just more fun for everyone.” he wrote.
Investigators have also found evidence that he participated in the group’s 2016 meetings in Liverpool and London.
As Hannam encouraged others interested in the group, prosecutors insisted he was “not just a member, he was trying to recruit other people,” the Crown Prosecution said in a statement on Thursday.
Investigators used CCTV footage to show Hannam attending a National Action Assembly pub in January 2017 alongside those later convicted of terrorism-related offenses. Police also found that Hannam had a USB drive with extremist content, including “How to Stab or Kill Someone Seriously” and the writings of right-wing extremist Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011. ,
Scotland Yard’s review of Hanami Metropolitan Police’s work has found no evidence that his official actions were influenced by extremist ideologies, BBC News reports.
The judge released Hannam, who was suspended from police custody, on bail pending a hearing on April 23.
«[Hannam’s] “He was caught lying, he was identified as a person with deep racist beliefs, who also had extremist publications about the use of terrorism,” Hopkins said on Thursday.