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27 May 2015, 07:15
A young Muslim from the West Midlands is facing jail after being found guilty of trying to join Islamic State in Syria to fulfil his ambition of becoming a martyr.
Zakariya Ashiq, 20, left the UK on November 6 last year on a bus from Victoria Station in London and made his way via Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Bulgaria to Jordan, his Old Bailey trial heard.
But when he failed to cross the border to reach his intended destination of Syria, he flew back to Heathrow where he was arrested on November 20.
In his defence, Ashiq, of Station Road, Coventry, admitted trying to get to Syria but claimed he had to leave the UK because he was being ``pestered'' by MI5 and ``tortured'' by unidentified shadowy figures.
But the jury at the Old Bailey found him guilty on two counts of preparing acts of terrorism on or before November 6 last year.
After Judge Charles Wide QC adjourned sentencing to 10am today (Wednesday), Ashiq smiled and appeared to mutter in Arabic as he was led from the dock.
The court heard an examination of his phone revealed recorded WhatsApp conversations with two friends who had allegedly gone to Syria earlier last year.
In them, Ashiq described to Ali Kalantar and Mohammed Ismail hitch-hiking and sleeping in mosques during his journey across Europe.
He appealed to them for help to get into Syria, saying the second he got the chance he would do ``Ishtishadi (martyrdom) against any ... all these people'', the jury was told.
In one message, he pleaded: ``Oh, seriously man, just get me there, man ... I don't know how you gonna get me, but you have to get me across.''
Ashiq's extremist sympathies were also exposed in other WhatsApp messages read out to the jury. In one he wrote: ``There is no life, there's no life without jihad.''
He also spoke of his admiration for Islamic State using the online website Chat Roulette, the court heard.
And he searched on his computer for phrases such as ``IS beheading journalist'' and ``44 ways to support jihad'' and Islamic preacher Anjem Choudary.
Prosecutor Sarah Whitehouse QC chronicled Ashiq's various alleged attempts to join IS during the course of last year.
He went to Turkey with his father in March last year, just days after Kalantar and Ismail flew out to Istanbul via Frankfurt.
During the trip, purportedly to visit refugee camps on the Syrian border, the pair fell out and Ashiq flew home on May 20.
Then, in July, he tried to go abroad again and told officers he was intending to go to Corfu and had not time for terrorists or their beliefs.
After his arrest at Heathrow Airport on November 20, Ashiq said he had no aspirations to join IS or become a terrorist, describing Ismail as ``an idiot''.
Giving evidence in the witness box, Ashiq said he repeatedly met MI5 operatives between July and November who ``harassed'' and ``pestered'' him to help them.
He also claimed to have been ``waterboarded'' on several occasions by men in balaclavas who bundled him into the back of a white van in Coventry.
The jury rejected his explanation and reached unanimous guilty verdicts in less than two hours.