Saturday 22 October 2016

RAF veteran converted to Islam and tried to join terror group, court told

Rachael Burnett London

Published 26/04/2016 | 02:30

Stephen Gray (32) tried to travel to Syria with a friend on two occasions in July 2014
Stephen Gray (32) tried to travel to Syria with a friend on two occasions in July 2014

A Libyan refugee who was disabled while fighting against the former regime of Colonel Gaddafi tried to help an RAF veteran join terrorist fighters in Syria after he converted to Islam, a court heard.

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Stephen Gray (32), a British convert who served in the Iraq war with the RAF, tried to travel to Syria with a friend on two occasions in July 2014 but both attempts were unsuccessful.

Abdalraouf Abdallah (22) is on trial at Woolwich Crown Court accused of helping him try to get to the war-torn country. Abdallah, whose parents are both Libyan, was injured fighting in the revolution against Colonel Gaddafi and is now paralysed from the waist down and wheelchair-bound.

He exchanged dozens of messages with Gray over Skype, Viber and WhatsApp in the months before 2014, the court was told. Prosecutor Max Hill said: "There is no dispute about the fact that Gray made repeated attempts to enter Syria with a view to joining the fighting in that country. It is the prosecution case that this defendant helped Gray in this endeavour."

Abdallah is also accused of arranging to provide firearms to three other men and send £2,000 (€2,500) to his brother, Mohammed Abdallah, for terrorist purposes.

Mohammed went to Syria in June 2014 and planned to meet Gray there, the court was told.

"They were going there to help the Syrians defend themselves, to get their freedom back just like us (Libyans)," Abdallah told the jury. "They said they were going to meet with Stephen Gray."

Abdallah, who came to the UK with his family as refugees in 1993, said he had known Gray for seven or eight years after they met playing football together in Manchester.

"He was a British soldier in the army and the air force - he did both," he added. "He was fighting terrorism in Iraq. I think he was posted there twice."

Gray, of Greater Manchester, was born to Christian parents before converting to Islam during his time in the British military, the jury was told. Abdallah claimed he did not know Gray or his brother were planning to go to Syria before they left the UK.

Gray apparently had a contact in Syria, who he had met at an Arabic university in Egypt.

Abdallah, of Moss Side in Greater Manchester, denies preparation of acts of terrorism and funding terrorism.

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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