Coventry & Warwickshire

Zakariya Ashiq jailed for six years for trying to join Islamic State

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Media captionAshiq told two friends he was prepared to swim the English Channel

A British man who attempted to join Islamic State in Syria has been jailed for six years.

Zakariya Ashiq, 20, from Coventry, was found guilty of two counts of preparing acts of terrorism at the Old Bailey on Tuesday.

He was arrested at Heathrow Airport in November after failing to cross into Syria from Jordan.

He admitted trying to get to Syria but said he had been forced to leave the UK because he was being "harassed" by MI5.

But judge Charles Wide QC said he knew what IS was and had been intent on fighting for them.

He said: "Any suggestion of naivety should not be overstated. He is highly intelligent and resourceful."

'Fantastical tale'

The court heard Ashiq left the UK in November last year and travelled through Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Bulgaria to Jordan.

A subsequent examination of his phone revealed recorded conversations with two friends who had allegedly gone to Syria earlier last year.

In them, Ashiq talked to Ali Kalantar and Mohammed Ismail about them helping him to get into Syria, saying the second he got the chance he would do "Ishtishadi (martyrdom) against any ... all these people",

Other WhatsApp messages were read out to the jury. In one he wrote: "There is no life, there's no life without Jihad."

But after his arrest at Heathrow Airport on 20 November, Ashiq said he had no aspirations to join IS or become a terrorist, describing Ismail as "an idiot".

His lawyer Paul Hynes QC described Ashiq as a Walter Mitty character whose evidence about being waterboarded by masked men in a van in Coventry showed elements of a "fantastical tale".

The judge also sentenced Ashiq to a further four years on extended licence.

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