A key figure in the shadowy network of strategists behind the racist English Defence League (EDL) has been sacked by Leeds City Council.
The news will come as a blow to the EDL as it attempts to muster its dwindling numbers for a march in Waltham Forest, east London, next month.
Chris Knowles worked in the school governor support team at the Leeds council children’s services department.
But operating under the name “Aeneas” he has long been a key figure behind the scenes in the EDL. In particular, Knowles has been central to the EDL’s links with European and US far right groups.
Knowles is a registered director of the “Centre for Vigilant Freedom”. This is a well funded US-based organisation that operates as the International Civil Liberties Alliance (ICLA).
The ICLA was set up to promote anti-Muslim hatred internationally. Its website is run by Knowles under his “Aeneas” alias. The group organises international “counter jihad” conferences, bringing the likes of the EDL together with anti-Muslim ideologues and far right politicians from across Europe and the US.
These range from populist racists such as Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party in the Netherlands through to outright fascists such as the Sweden Democrats or Belgium’s Vlaams Belang.
It was at such a “counter jihad” summit in London last year that the alliance between the leaders of the EDL and the British Freedom Party (BFP) was hammered out.
The BFP was set up by former leading British National Party members and aims to replace the BNP as the leading fascist organisation in Britain.
Knowles, who coordinated the ICLA’s European work from his base in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, has been involved in the EDL from the outset.
He was named by Paul Ray, a disaffected founder member of the EDL, as one of the small group that met to set up the organisation in 2009, alongside Alan Ayling, better known as “Alan Lake”.
Knowles remained an important behind-the-scenes figure, at one time running the EDL’s media operation.
Unite Against Fascism publicly exposed Knowles as the man behind the “Aeneas” identity in December last year, setting out his role with the ICLA and the EDL.
The Sunday Times then revealed his employment at Leeds council. The council responded by suspending Knowles and has now sacked him.
The Unison trade union is understood to have refused to represent Knowles. Leeds council’s chief executive Tom Riordan said the council was totally committed to fairness and equality.
He said, “After a thorough investigation supported by the police we concluded that in this particular case behaviour had been demonstrated which ran completely counter to what we stand for. This is in fundamental breach of contract and left us with no choice but to dismiss the staff member concerned.”
Following his sacking, Knowles has finally crawled out from behind his alias, posting under his real name on “Liberties Alliance”, the ICLA’s website.
For more on the network of Islamophobes behind the English Defence League, go to the Unite Against Fascism website