Two men convicted of planning to join Daesh
Two friends who attempted to travel to Syria have been found guilty of preparing for terrorist acts in support of the so-called Islamic State.
Safwaan Mansur, from Birmingham, and Hanzalah Patel, from Leicester, travelled to Turkey in 2016 and 2017 after checking out an area near the Syrian border on TripAdvisor, a two-week trial was told.
Jurors heard the men, who spent nine days in jail in Turkey in 2017 after being arrested at an Istanbul hotel, bought camping equipment, outdoor survival clothing and airline tickets before travelling initially to Germany.
Prosecutors alleged Mansur, 22, of Hampton Road, Aston, and Patel, also 22, of Frederick Road, Leicester, undertook a 24-hour bus journey from Istanbul to near the Syrian border during a previous visit to Turkey in 2016.
Opening the case against the pair at Birmingham Crown Court, prosecutor Simon Davis said they were arrested at Heathrow Airport in 2017 after being reported missing by family members.
During subsequent questioning by police, the court heard Mansur said he had gone to Turkey’s Hatay province – described in court as a “transit area” for Syria – in 2016 to “have a look” like “lots of other tourists”.
Claiming items including water purifiers and solar chargers were found in the men’s luggage, Mr Davis told the court: “Mr Patel, when interviewed, throughout maintained a no comment stance, as was his right.”
Jurors were told Mansur said items in his luggage were gifts for friends at a mosque in Germany, where he intended to stop off en route to or from Turkey.
Outlining Mansur’s account, Mr Davis told the jury panel: “The people at the mosque liked outdoor pursuits like camping – that was the explanation being given.”
Questioning why the former school friends had misled their families and travelled via another country to Turkey, Mr Davis told the jury: “You might want to ask yourselves whether this was an innocent camping holiday or, as the prosecution allege, the two of them engaging in conduct with a view to crossing into Syria with the intention of joining Islamic State.”
Lawyers acting for both defendants said the men had formed a “naive and idiotic” plan to cross into Syria, but had no intention of fighting or committing acts of terrorism.
West Midlands Police said Patel’s father contacted the police force in June 2017 after becoming concerned, having learned that his son had lied about leading prayers at a mosque in Germany.
Commenting on the inquiry, the temporary head of the West Midlands Counter-Terrorism Unit, Chief Superintendent Shaun Edwards, said: “Patel had on his media devices links to an online guide on how to join the terrorist group and he made several successful credit card applications before using the funds to buy the outdoor equipment.
“Electronic devices seized from Patel on his arrest in the UK contained graphic images, videos and text glorifying Daesh. The content gives an insight into their mind-set and showed they were developing an active interest in Daesh and Jihadi ideology.”
Mansur and Patel are due to be sentenced on April 25.