A MAN who was arrested while on his way to join Daesh (the Islamic State group) in Syria and convicted of terror offences by a British court last month was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment on Monday (20).
Hanzalah Patel, from Leicester, denied the charges but was found guilty by a jury at the end of a trial at Birmingham Crown Court in April.
The 22-year-old told his family that he was due to be leading prayers at a mosque in Germany but after concerns were raised, West Midlands Police searched his home and began piecing together his intention to travel to Syria and join Daesh.
Patel, along with his schoolfriend 23-year-old Safwaan Mansur, was arrested on July 1, 2017, by police officers as they arrived back at Heathrow Airport from Istanbul, where the Turkish authorities had executed their arrest as part of the UK’s investigation.
During a two-week trial in April, Patel said he wanted to go to Syria to “big myself up” on returning after taking some pictures and talking to local people.
But the trial heard that Patel and Mansur, who was also jailed for 14 years, bought camping equipment, outdoor survival equipment and clothing. They then purchased airline tickets before travelling initially to Germany and then onto Istanbul before contacting others to arrange a crossing into Syria.
They had broken down their journey in an attempt to evade surveillance, using a mix of air travel and public transport.
They even booked a return flight with no intention of using it, West Midlands Police said.
Mansur and Patel – who had known each other since being at school together in Leicester – had embarked on a similar trip in 2016, but having got to Hatay on the Syrian border, they returned to the UK after a contact failed to answer calls.
At the time Hatay was a transit area for individuals wanting to cross into territory occupied by Daesh. They planned a repeat journey via Turkey a year later before they were arrested and found guilty of the commission, preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism between May and June 2017.
Chief superintendent Shaun Edwards, of the West Midlands Police Counter-Terrorism Unit, said: “If anyone is concerned that a friend or family member is thinking of travelling to Syria it is very important that they tell us as soon as possible. Police and other agencies can offer support to help safeguard those who are vulnerable to radicalisers.
“The sooner we can intervene, the better chance we have of preventing people from becoming embroiled in the conflict and facing potential prosecution.”