A COVENTRY man intent on martyring himself while fighting for Islamic State in Syria has been convicted of preparing for terrorist acts at the Old Bailey today (Tuesday, May 26).
Zakariya Ashiq, from Foleshill, was also found guilty of assisting others to prepare for terrorism in a week-long trial.
The unemployed 20-year-old had failed in his attempt to join Islamic State last November and was arrested when he returned to the UK.
The court heard that Ashiq had made other attempts to enter Syria to join two of his friends believed to be engaged in the conflict – Coventrians Ali Kalantar, Mohammed Ismail and their friend Rashid Amani.
Kalantar and Amani have since been reported killed in the fighting.
The prosecution stated that Ashiq may have successfully entered Syria for a period in May 2014, however when questioned by police about his travel, the former tyre factory worker said he had no desire to join IS and that his friend Ismail was “an idiot” for signing up.
But, evidence found on Ashiq’s phone suggested otherwise.
Numerous WhatsApp recordings sent to his friends describing the intense efforts he was making to join them and asking for their help in getting him across the border.
Ashiq had deleted the messages but forensic investigators recovered them.
The jury was played these recordings.
In one Ashiq was heard to say: “The second I get a chance I am doing Martyrdom,” and, “there is no life without Jihad.”
The jury was also told about the lengthy journey Ashiq had made – crisscrossing Europe by road in an attempt to appear a normal tourist and not arouse suspicions about his ultimate destination.
Having failed to cross into Syria, the then teenager eventually flew home from Jordan to Heathrow – where officers from the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit arrested him in November last year.
He claimed in police interviews he wanted to go to a place where he could practise his religion in peace without fear of torture from the UK authorities.
Ashiq initially denied the charges, but when speaking from the witness box he admitted he had intended in November to travel to Syria and join Islamic State.
Detective Chief Superintendent Sue Southern, head of the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, said Ashiq had gone ‘to great lengths’ to get across the Syrian border.
She added: “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.”
Zakariya Ashiq, will be sentenced tomorrow (Wednesday, May 27).