Former UWA academic Abdussalam Adina-Zada has been jailed for advocating terrorism in YouTube videos

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A self-proclaimed future political leader of Tajikistan has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison for promoting terrorism via YouTube videos extolling the virtues of violence and martyrdom.

Former University of Western Australia researcher Abdussalam Adina-Zada, who has been in prison since his arrest in December 2020, could be released on parole as early as August next year.

District Court Judge Troy Sweeney said the 54-year-old’s behavior was a threat to Australia’s desire for “tolerance, multiculturalism and freedom of speech”.

She said Adina-Zada has the right to express an opinion, but he uses extremist language that has the potential to inspire acts of violence or to radicalize people.

“Planting such ideas is absolutely irresponsible and dangerous,” she said.

Adina-Zada could be released from prison next August.(abc news)

The court heard that between January 2019 and his arrest, Adina-Zada had posted several videos on his YouTube channel encouraging Muslims to overthrow the Tajik government and establish a caliphate.

He often spoke of how he was inspired by groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan and ISIS in Syria.

These videos were viewed more than 1.6 million times, with 78 percent of the viewers living in Russia and almost 12 percent in Tajikistan.

They have been viewed around 10,000 times in Australia.

“We must not be afraid of death”

Many of the videos encouraged viewers to acquire weapons, power and influence to build an army.

This army would incite a violent uprising against the government and free it from the influence of foreign “infidels” like China and Russia.

In a video uploaded in January 2019, titled “Mujahideen Advance,” he called on Islamic revolutionaries to take power in Tajik villages and stir up fear.

“The work should begin, the jihad should begin, the mujahideen should move forward,” he said.

In another video a year later, he told viewers not to fear martyrdom in their “good” fight.

“We must not be afraid of death,” he said.

In April 2020, a joint anti-terrorist team searched his home and car and confiscated his mobile phone, laptop and hard drive.

Police search a car linked to Abdussalam Adina-Zada
The joint anti-terrorist team became aware of Adina-Zada through an online video sharing account.(abc news)

This team included the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization and the WA Police.

During an interview, he told the team that “bloodshed is coming and he invites it” and also agreed to take down his YouTube channel.

He reactivated it six weeks later and continued posting videos until his arrest – including one in which he told his followers he had learned to be careful with his language to avoid getting banned from online platforms.

The court heard that Adina-Zada was an intelligent and educated man who seriously considered himself a future potential political leader of Tajikistan.

A Sunni Muslim, he was born in the Central Asian country when it was a republic of the former USSR and moved to Australia in 2006, where he later became a citizen.

Abdussalam Adina-Zada
Adina-Zada seriously considered himself a future potential political leader of Tajikistan, the court heard.(abc news)

At one point, Adina-Zada was facing 18 terrorism charges, but earlier this month pleaded guilty to one count of advocating terrorism, which included all 15 videos in which he advocated politically motivated violence.

His sentence on those charges has been backdated to his arrest and he will serve a two-year, eight-month period without parole.

The court heard that Adina-Zada had faced discrimination and threats in prison, including attacks by white supremacists.

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