An Indian-origin man arrested in June 2017 on his way to join the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group in Syria was on Monday found guilty of terrorist offences by a UK court. Hanzalah Patel, from the British city of Leicester, had denied the charges but was found guilty by a jury at the end of a trial at Birmingham Crown Court. The 22-year-old said he wanted to go to Syria to “big myself up” and brag on returning, after taking some pictures and talking to local people.
Patel, along with accomplice Safwaan Mansur, was arrested on July 1, 2017, by West Midlands Police Counter Terrorism officers as they arrived back at Heathrow Airport from Istanbul, where the Turkish authorities had executed the arrest as part of the investigation.
According to local court reports, the jury was told that Patel had told his family that he was due to be leading prayers at a mosque in Germany but when the family contacted the mosque they were told that no-one from the UK had led prayers that month and alarm bells began to ring. Patel’s father contacted the local police force in June 2017 after becoming concerned about his son’s whereabouts.
It later emerged that Patel had bought camping equipment, outdoor survival equipment and clothing and airline tickets before travelling initially to Germany and then onto Istanbul before contacting others to arrange a crossing into Syria. He and Mansur had broken down their journey in an attempt to evade surveillance using a mix of air travel and public transport, they had even booked a return flight with no intention of using it, the jury heard.
Patel, along with Mansur who he had known since being at school together in Leicester, embarked on a similar trip in 2016 but returned after reaching Hatay on the Syrian border. They were forced to return home after a contact failed to answer calls, only to plan their return to Syria the following year.
The court heard that in May 2017, Mansur was in contact with a user of the encrypted messaging site Telegram – who was in fact working for the US government – to discuss crossing the border into ISIS-held territory. When the two men arrived in Istanbul, the contact told them he would send someone to help but once they revealed their whereabouts they were arrested.
The duo was found guilty of the commission, preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism between May and June 2017 and will be sentenced on April 25.