England

Britons went to Syria for 'research not terrorism'

Birmingham Crown Court Image copyright PA
Image caption Birmingham Crown Court heard the men tried to cross from Turkey to Syria in 2017

A man who denies trying to join the Islamic State group has told a jury he and a friend only wanted to go to Syria to carry out research.

Hanzalah Patel, 22, of Leicester, and Safwaan Mansur, 22, of Birmingham, deny preparation of terrorist acts.

Mr Mansur told Birmingham Crown Court he wanted to see the "reality" of what was happening in the country because he believed the news was "quite biased".

He added that he never considered joining the IS group.

Mr Mansur's barrister Alex Rose asked him why he wanted to cross the Turkish border into Syria.

"As to the general reality of what was happening there," he told the court.

"The news is quite biased so we wanted to see the reality ourselves of what was happening there."

He and Mr Patel were held in 2017 after a contact they thought was helping them turned out to be a US government agent.

Mr Mansur told the jury: "I thought he was an Isis sympathiser, so I thought I wanted to gain his trust."

The court heard the pair were arrested in a hotel lobby and spent nine days in a Turkish prison.

"There was food once a day, we had to pay for it, no such things as bathrooms or showers, we were not even allowed to talk to anyone besides the officers," said Mr Mansur.

Mr Rose also asked Mr Mansur if he agreed with "violent jihad".

He replied: "I think Islam is peaceful. It preaches peace."

Both men had attended Darul Uloom Muslim boys' boarding school in Leicester.

Mr Mansur told the jury there were others there who commented on the situation in Syria, but the school had a strict policy on such matters.

Simon Davis, prosecuting, asked why Mr Mansur had not asked a teacher about Syria.

"These things were not talked about and considered something we should not do," he said.

"They would not tell us, that is why we were keen to go."

Mr Patel, 22, of Frederick Road, Highfields, and Mr Mansur, 22, of Hampton Road, Aston, both deny preparation of terrorist acts between 31 May 2017 and 24 June 2017.

The trial continues.

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