Sunday, May 31, 2015

Imam's son who claimed he travelled to Syrian border because he was 'stressed over his A-levels' found guilty of preparing acts of terrorism

  • Zakariya Ashiq said he took trip because he was stressed about A-Levels
  • Three of his friends, all from Coventry, travelled to Turkey four days earlier
  • Radicalised 20-year-old recorded saying: 'There is no life without Jihad'
  • Jury deliberated for less than two hours before a unanimous guilty verdict 
Zakariya Ashiq was found guilty of preparing acts of terrorism after trying to travel to Syria last year
Zakariya Ashiq was found guilty of preparing acts of terrorism after trying to travel to Syria last year
A 'stressed' A-level student has been found guilty of preparing acts of terrorism after dropping out of his studies and travelling to Turkey with his father to join Islamic State.

Zakariya Ashiq  made recordings on WhatsApp telling friends 'there is no life without Jihad' and 'the second I get a chance I am doing martydom', which were heard by the jury in the Old Bailey.

The unemployed 20-year-old claimed he fell out with his father, who is an imam, on the trip to visit aid projects on the Turkish-Syrian border.

He described how his mother travelled out to Turkey and tricked him into meeting her before taking his passport and escorting him home.

The parents had divorced ten years earlier and Ashiq lived with his mother and two younger brothers aged 15 and 17, in Coventry.

Ashiq then made two attempts to return to Syria, on one occasion posing as a tourist travelling to Corfu with condoms in his bag and on the other volunteering to be a suicide bomber after hitchhiking across Europe.

Three of his friends - Ali Kalantar, Mohammed Ismail, and Rashid Amani - all from Coventry, travelled out to Turkey on March 26, 2014, four days before Ashiq and his father. 

Kalantar was killed in an Allied air strike on Tikrit University in December and Amani a few days later during an air raid on Kobane.

Ismail had been labelled 'Osama bin Bieber' by the press after the pop-star Justin Bieber, but Ashiq told him in one message: 'I don't know what you guys in Dawla [the State] look like, I don't care. I've got more love for you than I have for the whole world.

'I don't care, I swear down, I'm willing to give everything, my life, my everything for you guys. I swear down if I had everything, anything I've got I'm willing to give for Dawla.'

In another Whatsapp message, Ashiq told them: 'The second I get the chance, inshallah, if Allah accepts me, I am doing Ishtishadi [martyrdom] against all of these people Rawafid [shias].'

In another recording he added: 'Seriously man, you lot got the Caliphate, praise be to God, Allah has accepted you, blessed you with so much. You know what, there is no other life to live because there is no life without jihad. It's a simple reality.'

Ashiq told the jury at the Old Bailey he only went to Syria to escape 'shadowy figures' who kidnapped him from the street and water-boarded him.

The 20-year-old sniggered in the dock when the verdict was returned, and began muttering words in Arabic.
He had told the jury he only went to Syria to escape 'shadowy figure' who had kidnapped and tortured him
The 20-year-old sniggered in the dock when the verdict was returned, and began muttering words in Arabic. He had told the jury he only went to Syria to escape 'shadowy figure' who had kidnapped and tortured him
Caught on camera: Ashiq, seen on CCTV at a coach station as he was trying to reach Syria. The jury at the Old Bailey spent less than two hours deliberating before unanimously finding him guilty
Ashiq, captured on CCTV at a coach station as he was trying to reach Syria. The jury at the Old Bailey spent less than two hours deliberating before unanimously finding the aspiring university student guilty

He claimed was kidnapped five times by masked men he believed were working for the government, handcuffed and thrown in the back of a van.

In an excitable WhatsApp audio message on November 14 last year, as he tried to cross into Syria from Jordan, Ashiq told Ismail: 'The amount of stuff they've done to me yeah? 

'I don't want to talk about it but…let's just say it's degrading, humiliating. They done everything you can think of. They done anything you can think of. Sexual, all these stuff they've done.'

But the jury took less than two hours to find Ashiq unanimously guilty of two counts of preparing acts of terrorism.

Dressed in a grey Nike track suit and blue t-shirt, he sniggered as the verdict was returned and began muttering words in Arabic.

His barrister, Paul Hynes QC, said Ashiq had a 'normal parental relationship' with his mother but 'the father not so much.'

Ashiq and his father, Mohammed Shoaib Ashiq, were questioned before leaving Britain at Birmingham Airport and he admitted that he knew the other three men but said they had been into 'drinking and chasing girls' in Britain.


During West Midland Police's investigation they uncovered numerous Whatsapp recordings that Ashiq had sent to his friends already in Syria, describing the steps he was willing to take to join them and become part of ISIS.
In one he said: 
'I said to even Ali, yeah, I said to him within one month I'm going to be dead, yeah, this was before I left UK because I knew that if I didn't get through on the bus I was literally just going to swim the English Channel and that's it, die.
'Because I was thinking, you know, there's no point me sitting there in there… and live like a life of bloody… like a slave, like a pig, yeah.
'There's no point, I might as well try my chances and swim the Channel, at least I can say to Allah then I tried to get to the land. 
'That way at least I've got an excuse… if I'd swam across the Channel and died there drowned there or whatever. I'm happy and humble.
'That's what I'm thinking now even if this money doesn't not last me, I'm happy to walk the desert, seriously – just give me a place, I'll walk it there, if I die on the way to .. at least I died away from my home.' 
He told police he was 'studying A-levels exams and becoming stressed' and said he had planned to go to Egypt but his father had persuaded him to go to Turkey instead.

He was studying maths, physics and computer aided design and had offers from Warwick, Brunel and Loughborough universities to study mechanical engineering.

They were planning to visit the Blue Mosque, see dervishes and visit the grave of the Prophet Mohammed's companion Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, before going on to see some hot springs.

He had written down details for a man called 'Shakeel' and said that Shakeel ran a bakery for refugees linked to the charity Children in Deen near the towns of Hatay and Reyhanli close to the Syrian border

He was carrying £1,795 in cash of which he said £595 had been raised as charitable donations by 'the community.'

Asked about Syria he told the officers: 'I don't want to get my head blown off.

 You only go there if you're suicidal or you've got a death wish.'

Father and son were allowed to continue on their way but Ashiq 'was later to tell the police that he and his father fell out at some stage on their trip and they parted company,' Ms Whitehouse said.

He returned via Copenhagen to Birmingham Airport on May 20 with his mother, Shazia Ahmed, and the prosecutor added: 'It is highly likely he had been in Syria.'

He claimed to have met a taxi driver called Deniz who was 'a lot more relaxed' than his father, 'quite a joker and a bit of a laugh' and said they had spent the next three weeks 'partying and having a good time, drinking alcohol and meeting girls.'

'It was mainly down to his mother that he came back. She took his money, cash card and passport from him when she first saw him,' DC Simon Shippam said in a statement.

Mohammad Ismail, nicknamed 'Osama Bin Beiber' for his good looks, was a friend of Ashiq and had travelled out to Turkey on March 26, 2014, four days before Ashiq and his father. Ismail has since joined ISIS

On his return Ashiq began working in a tyre warehouse and engaged in conversations on the website known as ChatRoulette which pairs random people around the world for conversations over webcameras.

In the conversations Ashiq told one person he met, speaking in Arabic: 'Thanks Allah, the Islamic State is lived by Muslims. They kill the infidels and the apostates.'

He encouraged another person to join the Islamic State, telling them: 'It's easy to join dawla [the State]…they will pay u good wage…find u a wife…respond to the calling brother…immigrate to the State of Islam.'

On July 11, Ashiq made a second attempt to travel abroad, this time telling police who stopped him at Birmingham Airport that he was heading for Kavos in Corfu because he didn't want to take part in Ramadan and his parents were strict and he had begun to 'rebel against them.'

He told the officers: 'It's because of these terrorists that people like me get messed about' and said he did not understand why some people thought it was 'acceptable to kill themselves and others.'

Then on November 6 he travelled down to London by coach and then bought a ticket from Victoria to Amsterdam.

In a message to his friends left on Whatsapp, Ashiq explained that he had then caught a coach to Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria but was stopped as he tried to cross into Turkey and then went to Greece and finally to Jordan.

'I had to walk all the way across Europe like…I've been sleeping in masjids [mosques]…hitch hiking all sort of stuff man…If I could just get a taxi to a town close to the Jordanian border and then from there even just Dawlah guy come and pick me up man, I'll be grateful, Alhamdulillah.'

As he got more desperate to try and get into Syria he added: 'Oh seriously man, just get me there man…I don't know how you gonna get me, but you have to get me across.'

But he did not succeed and travelled back to Britain a few days later where he was arrested.
Detective Chief Superintendent Sue Southern, head of the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit said: 'Ashiq went to great lengths to travel around Europe looking for a way to get across the border into Syria but ultimately failed when he arrived in Jordan.

'Counter terrorism authorities are working hard to reduce the potential for foreign fighters to gain access to Syria.

'However, this can be made more difficult when you have cases such as this when individuals make efforts to disguise their plans and cross multiple European borders.

'We continue to urge families to come forward and work with us to stop young people before they commit offences which we then have to investigate and bring before the courts.

'This young man is now facing a prison sentence and two of his friends who did get in to Syria may it seems have been killed in the fighting.

'We must all work together to counter the poisonous narrative that takes hold of these young people - whether it is coming from the Internet or from friendship groups. 
Ashiq will be sentenced on Wednesday.

No comments: