UK: Zakariya Ashiq trial: Guilty of trying to join Islamic State

Zakariya Ashiq

Zakariya Ashiq denied two counts of preparing acts of terrorism

A British man has been convicted of trying to join Islamic State in Syria.

Zakariya Ashiq, 20, from Coventry, was found guilty of two counts of preparing acts of terrorism.

The Old Bailey heard he was arrested at Heathrow in November after failing to cross the border from Jordan. He will be sentenced on Wednesday.

Ashiq, of Station Road, admitted trying to get to Syria but said he had been forced to leave the UK because he was being “harassed” by MI5.

An examination of his phone revealed recorded conversations with two friends who had allegedly gone to Syria earlier last year, the court heard.

‘Martyrdom’

In them, Ashiq talked to Ali Kalantar and Mohammed Ismail about his journey through Europe.

Ashiq asked his friends for help getting into Syria, saying the second he got the chance he would do “Ishtishadi [martyrdom] against any … all these people’, the jury heard.

Prosecutor Sarah Whitehouse QC described Ashiq’s attempts to join Islamic State, saying he went to Turkey with his father in March 2014 to visit refugee camps on the Syrian border.

He then tried to go abroad again in July.

After his arrest at Heathrow on 20 November, Ashiq denied wanting to join Islamic States and said his friend Mr Ismail was “an idiot”.

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Dominic Casciani, BBC Home Affairs correspondent

Zakariya Ashiq was so desperate to reach Syria, he claimed he would risk his life swimming the English Channel to leave the land he hated. His own words reflect the story of others that have been played out in different cities.

Small clusters of friends tempted by the warzone. An ideology magnified and cemented by Islamic State’s social media machine. A determination to leave behind what he saw as an unworthy life in the UK.

British law is drawn widely to minimise the risks of violence here or overseas – yet despite getting their man, West Midlands Police’s response to the conviction has been far from triumphalist.

The force has repeated its appeal for help in stopping others like Ashiq before they break the law. While police can use that law to contain the problem – that alone isn’t going to solve it.

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Giving evidence in the witness box, Ashiq said he was “pestered” by members of MI5 who wanted him to help them.

He also claimed to have been “waterboarded” on several occasions and bundled into the back of a van in Coventry.

The jury reached unanimous guilty verdicts after less than two hours’ deliberation.

source BBC NEWS

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