Teenager who travelled to Turkey/Syria border to join Islamic State detained for five years
Published 18/11/2015 | 11:27
A teenager who blew his student loan and educational grants on travelling to join Islamic State has been detained for five years after being convicted of terrorism offences.
Yahya Rashid, 19, conned his way into Middlesex University in London using a forged BTec certificate, despite having an IQ of between 65 and 70.
He then used cash he was entitled to claim to take four friends from his mosque with him to the Turkey/Syria border via Morocco in February.
The group was stopped and questioned by police at Gatwick Airport but subsequently allowed to board a flight to Casablanca, from where they made their way to the Turkish border town of Gaziantep.
Rashid's trial at Woolwich Crown Court heard that, although his friends crossed into Syria - where they are believed to remain, the then 18-year-old had a change of heart and returned to Istanbul.
He returned to the UK after pleas from his family and was arrested.
Last week Rashid was found guilty of engaging in conduct in preparation for committing an act of terrorism, and engaging in conduct with the intention of assisting others to commit acts of terrorism between November 2014 and March this year.
Sentencing him, Judge Philip Katz QC said: "You lied on your oath before the jury and they saw through your lies and your evasions.
"You used forged documents to get a place at university. You told the jury, without any apparent shame, that you did that as a quicker way to get a degree."
He added that Rashid's previous education showed him to be "deceitful", and that he had failed citizenship.
Judge Katz said that, while he accepted Rashid may have eventually handed himself in because of what he was putting his family through, earlier Facebook conversations with his father had been "callous".
He continued: "I do accept that you are of below average intelligence and that you are a hanger-on, rather than a leader.
"You told the jury you had never held a gun in your life, and there is no reason to believe that is untrue.
"But goodness knows what you would have gone on to do as a foot soldier of Isis.
"The Facebook status update which your mother showed to police suggests that you may have had martyrdom in mind.
"I am not sure why you changed your mind and came back. I am inclined to think it was to save your own skin, but it possibly was because of how you felt about what you were doing to your family."
Rashid, whose family is originally from Somalia, paid £906 for five return flights to Morocco for himself and four others - Khalid Abdul-Rahman, Ibrahim Amouri, Swaleh Mohammed and Mr Mohammed's wife, Deqo Osman, all of whom he attended Wembley Mosque with.
Before he left the UK Rashid's YouTube account had ticked "like" on around 300 videos, many of them Islamist-themed, although it could not be proved he had personally ticked them.
It had also been used to make comments under other videos, including one on the Charlie Hebdo massacre where a comment was left saying: "Allah Akbar (God is great). This makes me happy."
During the trial, Mark McDonald, defending, said the teenager did not want to fight for IS but simply wanted to live in what he thought was an "Islamic utopia".
Mitigating on behalf of Rashid, Mr McDonald told the court his client had been led by others who had taken advantage of him because of his low IQ.
He said: "He was somebody who was ideal picking for those who were perhaps slightly more intelligent, slightly more worldly wise."
Mr McDonald added that Rashid could be described as having been "radicalised, or convinced or led down a path" despite having doubts about travelling to war-torn Syria.
He continued: "He saw on the news that destruction that was taking place in Syria. But at the same time was hearing that this was a place that they should be going to.
"He questioned this, but was told not to believe what was in the mainstream media because the mainstream media has an agenda."
Rashid, of Willesden in north-west London, was sentenced to five years in a youth offenders' institution for the terrorism offences, and a concurrent four months for an offence of fraud by deception, which he had admitted.