The man behind the most influential pro-ISIS Twitter account has told Channel 4 News that he is “ready to surrender” after Indian police said they are investigating him.
The man behind “Shami Witness” is actually from Bangalore, has never been to Syria and speaks no Arabic. He told Channel 4 News that he feared police would kill him and that he did not keep guns in his home in a bid for his safety.
The man, whose real name is Mehdi, said he would not resist arrest and would willingly surrender.
A Channel 4 investigation revealed the man operating the Shami Witness account was an executive in Bangalore working for an Indian conglomerate.
This is a transcript of a converstaion he had with a Channel 4 reporter:
Mehdi: I have a suspicion when that the police, when they come to arrest to me, they might try to kill me then they would say I tried to attack them.
I want to state clearly that I won’t resist arrest when the time comes. I don’t have any sort of weapons with me. I have no intention of resisting.
Simon Israel: Why do you think they might come to arrest you?
M: They are saying in the media there’s an actual manhunt right now. They might take more than 24 hours.
SI: But do you think you have done anything wrong?
M: No I haven’t done anything wrong. I haven’t harmed anybody, I haven’t broken any laws of the country. I haven’t raised any war or any violence against the public of India. So no.
I haven’t waged war against any allies of India. They might try to bring that charge. I haven’t waged war against anybody. I just said stuff, people followed me, then I followed them back and then we talked. I only knew what the IS fighters or sympathisers said in public tweets.
SI: But your story is trending all over the world?
M: I thought it would die down in the first one or two hours but it’s still raging. I can’t believe this
SI: Why do you think that is?
M: I think for the first time there’s a Muslim who can actually enunciate in English and get the message across and which has really pissed off our enemies, enemies of Muslims.
Bangalore’s police commissioner, MN Reddi told a press conference that the city’s “crime branch is carrying out investigation in the case”.
Dr Ajai Sahni, executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management in Delhi, told Channel 4 News that India’s legal system is “extremely formalistic”.
He added that the entire process is “punishment by trial” and that the prospects of conviction were slim.
“The trial process is extremely arduous. It could take 10 to 15 years just going through the courts,” Dr Sahni said.
“It would all depend on how he involved he is and whether the tweets demonstrate incitement to hatred.
“There is a law of waging a war against a friendly country, but IS is not a banned group in India.”
Mehdi said he would have gone to join Islamic State himself, but his family were financially dependent on him: “If I had a chance to leave everything and join them I might have.. my family needs me here.”
Channel 4 News chose not to reveal his full name as he says his life would be in danger if his true identity was made public.
However, there were reports today that other Islamic State follower accounts have closed down as a result of the Shami Witness interview:
Two thirds of all foreign fighters on Twitter followed him. When a fighter’s Twitter account is suspended, he often promoted the new one and urged people to follow it.
He spoke to British jihadis regularly, before they leave to join the Islamic State, after they arrived, and if they died he praised them as martyrs.
After being contacted by Channel 4 News, Mehdi shut down the Shami Witness account.