A British man who went to Syria to fight alongside rebels against government forces has pleaded guilty to preparing to carry out terrorist acts. He was represented by Ali Naseem Bajwa QC and Michael Ivers.
Yusuf Sarwar travelled to Syria via Turkey last May with a school friend. Records from their social media accounts and a letter left to the defendant's mother revealed that they were planning to join Kataib al-Muhajireen, part of the larger organisation al-Nusra. Al-Nusra is on the Home Office's list of Proscribed terror groups or organisations, although was not on that list at the time the pair travelled.
Police had been unaware of the pair's travel plans or involvement in the Syrian conflict. However, Yusuf Sarwar’s parents, concerned about their son's activities and on finding the letter he had left had alerted the authorities. Detectives then arrested the two on their return to the UK in January.
The case is one of the first coming before the courts concerning travelling to fight in Syria and reveals how wide the definition of terrorism has become so as to include individuals fighting for their beliefs, even if on the same side as our Government; against the forces of Assad in Syria.
Both men pleaded guilty at Woolwich Crown Court. Sentencing will take place at a later date.
The case has received extensive media coverage, including reports by the BBC, ITV, the Guardian, The Telegraph, and the Birmingham Mail. However mitigation has not yet taken place and much of the coverage ignores the issue of the definition of terrorism covering violence against armed forces rather than civilians and even where those armed forces have committed the atrocities attributed to them by our own government.
Ali and Michael were instructed by BH Mohammed Solicitors in Birmingham.