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Law catches up with U.K.'s best-known Islamic extremist

LONDON -- An Islamic extremist preacher who managed to stay just on the right side of British law for decades while touting sharia law as the future for Britain and encouraging young Muslims to wage jihad, is now facing a possible prison sentence for his actions.

Preacher Anjem Choudary, 49, and one of his adherents, 33-year-old Mohammed Mizanur Rahman were both found guilty on July 28 of inviting support for ISIS, a designated terrorist organization.

The men's pledge of allegiance to the terror group's self-declared "caliphate," or Islamic state, and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2014 was a "turning point for the police" that enabled officers to act under British law.

London's Metropolitan Police said in a statement that Choudary and Rahman were caught giving the pledge of allegiance to another know terrorist "via Skype, text and phone" during dinner at a restaurant in London.

"Choudary and Rahman are believed to have been recruiters and radicalisers for over 20 years and have been closely associated with another proscribed organisation Al Muhajiroun (ALM). ALM is believed to be the driving force behind a number of people who later committed terrorist attacks including the 7/7 bombers and Lee Rigby's murderers," the police said.

Choudary has been pick up by police on many occasions in recent decades, but in addition to being an expert in the tenets of sharia law, he's also well-versed in Britain's laws on free speech and incitement.

"These men have stayed just within the law for many years, but there is no one within the counter terrorism world that has any doubts of the influence that they have had, the hate they have spread and the people that they have encouraged to join terrorist organisations," Commander Dean Haydon, the head of the Met's Counter Terrorism Command, said in a statement. "Over and over again we have seen people on trial for the most serious offences who have attended lectures or speeches given by these men."

Choudary is a familiar face to Britons, who have seen him at the front of pro-sharia law demonstrations and heard his extremist rhetoric in news video for years.

Islamic extremist preacher Anjem Choudary at meeting in an East London basement. At center is one of his followers, Abu Rumaysah, who was CBS

"60 Minutes" interviewed him and one of his young followers in 2014 for an in-depth look at the efforts to legitimize and recruit for ISIS on the streets of Britain.

Face-to-face with an extremist

In the interview, Choudary flatly denied encouraging young men to go and fight for ISIS or other extremist groups, claiming none had sought his advice on the matter and he wouldn't discuss "hypotheticals."

He has always dismissed man-made laws and governments as illegitimate, and advocated for the implementation of sharia law across Europe and the wider world.

"I believe Islam is superior. And will not be surpassed," he told CBS News. "The messenger Mohammad, he said, 'Fight them with your wealth, with your body, with your tongue.' So, I'm engaged here, if you like, in a verbal jihad."

Choudary went so far in the 2014 interview as to taunt British law enforcement: "There was a report out recently which said that I inspired 500 people, in fact, to carry out operations here and abroad. And if that were really the case, don't you think that I'd arrested be? And I'll be sitting in prison?"

​British jihadist Abu Rumaysah seen in a photo purportedly taken in Syria and posted to his Twitter account
British jihadist Abu Rumaysah seen in a photo purportedly taken in Syria and posted to his Twitter account on Nov. 26, 2014, with the caption: "With my newborn son." Twitter

Later that year, the young man who was interviewed along with Choudary, a Londoner who had converted to Islam from Hinduism and been a close follower of the preacher, popped up in Syria fighting for ISIS and taunting British intelligence services for letting him "breeze through Europe to the Islamic State."

Whether Choudary now actually ends up sitting in a prison will be decided in the sentencing phase of his trial in early September. Under the charge of inviting support for a terrorist group, he faces a maximum 10 year sentence.

While the judge handed down the decision on Choudary and Rahman in July, rules were imposed by the court barring the verdict being made public until today.

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