British teacher who funded terrorists banned from classroom

Miriam Sebbagh sent thousands of pounds to terrorist group

British teacher has been banned after funding ISIS fighters. Image shows ISIS fighters standing on confiscated cigarettes before setting them on fire in the city of Raqqa.  Reuters

A primary schoolteacher has been banned from teaching after sending thousands of pounds to people and groups with terrorist links.

Police alerted the UK's teaching watchdog after discovering Miriam Sebbagh, 52, had been funding banned terrorist organisation Al-Muhajiroun (ALM), as well as sharing extremist videos.

Ms Sebbagh had been working at Hunwick primary school in Crook, County Durham, in the north-east of England.

Counter Terrorism Policing North East (CTPNE) discovered she had made five payments of £2,500 ($3,396) to a person linked to ALM.

Despite being arrested in 2017, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided there was “insufficient evidence” to charge her.

However, the CTPNE “maintained a high level of concern” regarding Ms Sebbagh’s state of mind, her opinions and her actions as a teacher, and submitted that her conduct should be considered by the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA).

She has now been prohibited “indefinitely” from any classroom by the TRA.

“Ms Sebbagh initially came to the attention of CTPNE following receipt of financial intelligence which indicated that she had made several payments to an individual linked to Al-Muhajiroun, which is a proscribed terrorist organisation,” the TRA panel heard.

“The investigation identified that Ms Sebbagh sent five payments [of ] £2,500 from her account to the individual.”

A further seven payments totalling £1,310 were made between January 27 and July 5, in 2016, to a person who is suspected of having left the UK to join ISIS.

In 2017, a payment of £100 was made to an individual believed to have married a suspected ALM member, and there was an unsuccessful payment in 2015 to a person arrested over terrorism offences, the panel was told.

Police discovered £4,670 in a safe at her address in 2018 which they believe was intended to fund terror attacks.

The money was forfeited under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 and Ms Sebbagh was also ordered to pay costs of £12,654.

During a police interview in May 2018, Ms Sebbagh said she regularly donated to good causes including Muslim charities, as part of her faith, and denied making payments to those linked to terrorism.

“Despite Ms Sebbagh’s assertion that the payments she had made were charitable in nature, the only ‘charitable’ aspects of those payments were to support fellow extremists while under criminal investigation for terrorist-related offences and/or to fund travel to join ISIS or others who espouse hate,” the panel was told.

The panel also heard Ms Sebbagh had “strongly-held views” that violent extremism was the “correct interpretation of Islamic teaching”.

She had liked a number of pages on Facebook including those of individuals linked to ISIS, extremist views and hate speech, and had been trying to radicalise a friend with her beliefs about “violent jihad”.

Ms Sebbagh also shared four “extreme and concerning” videos.

Alan Meyrick, on behalf of the UK's education secretary, made the decision to ban Ms Sebbagh due to the “seriousness of the allegations found proved against her”.

Updated: January 10th 2022, 1:25 PM