Trio face jail for helping teen jihadi join Syria fighters


Three young men are facing jail for helping a teenage jihadi follow in his big brother's footsteps and join fighters in Syria.

Kristen Brekke, Adeel Ulhaq and Forhad Rahman were found guilty at the Old Bailey of playing their part in the plan to get Aseel Muthana to the war-torn country.

Muthana was just 17 when he left home in Cardiff on February 21 2014 to join the ranks of Islamic State (IS) and has not returned.

His older brother Nasser Muthana, who he idolised, had travelled there with four other young men from Cardiff three months before, the court heard.

Nasser later achieved "notoriety" when he and other young men made a propaganda video for IS called There Is No life Without Jihad which was released in June 2014, the court heard.

Prosecutor Annabel Darlow QC had told jurors that all three defendants shared the same "highly-radical ideology" and support for waging war in Syria.

Two of the defendants, Rahman and Ulhaq, were part of a network of friends online who were committed to the violent struggle.

That included two brothers from Portsmouth, Tuhin Shahensha and Mustaqim Jaman. The third brother, Ifthekar Jaman, was killed while fighting in Syria for IS, in December 2013.

All three defendants played different roles in their mission to help Muthana achieve his goal to reach Syria and all but Brekke expressed a desire to follow suit, the court heard.

Rahman was key in funding Muthana's trip, Ulhaq had good contacts in Syria and gave practical advice while Brekke helped purchase kit and let the teenager use his computer.

Muslim convert Brekke, 20, had been good friends with Muthana since they worked together at an ice cream parlour in Cardiff.

The prosecution said he was well aware of his aim, and cited the evidence of a home-made video of the pair posing with an imitation gun on Asda Hill above Cardiff.

Brekke, who did not know his co-defendants before, gave a variety of explanations for his stash of gear, including claims they were impulse buys and he was preparing for a camping trip to the Brecon Beacons.

Muthana became fast friends with Rahman online and sent him the video clip from Asda Hill in which he proclaimed: "If you are watching this, I'm probably dead or I'm probably a legend or something."

The pair met up in London, where Rahman was working for Addison Lee, and exchanged affectionate messages referring to each other as "cutie", "honey" and "babe", a court heard.

He knew at the time he helped Muthana that it was dangerous in Syria as two months before, his acquaintance Iftekhar Jaman was killed in battle.

In his defence, Rahman, 21, from Cirencester, Gloucestershire, admitted allowing the teenager to use his credit card but insisted he thought he was going to Syria to "help people" by joining a local militia. He said: "When we discussed this, Isis was not the plan".

Rahman introduced his young friend to Ulhaq who gave practical help online and called on his contacts within Syria to smooth his entry into the country. However, Ulhaq never met Muthana in person.

The 21-year-old from Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, told the jury that he had considered going to Syria himself to bring home his ex-girlfriend, Aqsa Mahmood, from Glasgow, who had gone as a jihadi bride and proceeded to Tweet Isis propaganda.

He insisted that he believed Muthana was going for humanitarian reasons and not to fight for Isis, the court heard.

The jury was not told that the first Old Bailey trial of the three men collapsed last year due to publicity around Tweets from Mahmood.

Brekke, of Pentre Street, Grangetown, Cardiff; Rahman, of Cranhams Lane, Chesterton, Cirencester, Gloucestershire; and Ulhaq, of Westbourne Road, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, were found guilty of preparing for acts of terrorism. Ulhaq was further convicted of terror funding.

The jurors were not told that Iftekar Jaman's brothers, Shahensha, 27, and Jaman, 23, from Portsmouth, had earlier been jailed for six years each for helping people travel to Syria to fight with Isis.

Brekke shook his head as the jury delivered its verdict while his co-defendants gave no reaction.

Judge Rebecca Poulet QC will pass sentence on Wednesday afternoon.