Student guilty of Syria terror plan

Published: Wednesday 17th December 2014 by The News Editor

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A radical Muslim student who aspired to fly the black flag of Isis over Downing Street has been found guilty of planning to join rebel forces in Syria.

David Souaan, 20, was accused of preparing for terrorist acts in the war-torn country around the time he was stopped at Heathrow Airport on May 31.

The prosecution said he had visited in December last year and was on his way back to fight the jihadist cause when he was arrested.

But the Birkbeck College student, who comes from a wealthy family in Serbia, denied it and insisted his earlier visit to Syria was to collect his grandfather’s belongings.

A jury took nine hours to find him guilty following a trial at the Old Bailey.

Souaan, the son of a Serbian Christian mother and Syrian Muslim father, grew up in his mother’s country but still had close family ties to Syria and had adopted his father’s religion.

He came to the UK in 2013 on a three-year visa to study global politics and international relations at Birkbeck College in London, living in halls of residence in Malet Street.

He was arrested after fellow students became concerned at his radical views on Islam and he had shown off pictures of himself posing with guns.

Police seized his laptop and iPhone and found a mass of pictures, videos and documents revealing his “extremist sympathies” and that he had not only been fighting in Syria before but was intending to return, the Old Bailey heard.

Prosecutor Sarah Whitehouse QC said one video clip on his iPhone was “so graphic and so shocking” that it could not be played in court.

It featured a young-looking man kneeling with his head held back as another man cut his throat.

The court heard that Souaan filmed himself attending a demonstration in the UK.

In the background, a man can be heard to say: “The flag of Tawheed in London, all praise be to Allah the lord of the universe” – in reference to the fervent wish of Muslim extremists to see the black flag fly over Downing Street.

In his defence, Souaan told jurors that he had accompanied his father to his home town of Deir ez-Zor in Syria for two nights in December last year.

He said he only went to help retrieve his 82-year-old grandfather’s belongings after he fled to Turkey with just the clothes on his back.

He posed for pictures with guns because he wanted to look “cool”, he said: “At the time when I was there I felt something like I wanted some trophy – the photos.

“As the teenagers say nowadays, it looks ‘cool’. So that was the reason.”

Souaan, whose father made a fortune in the construction business in Serbia, insisted that, while he was in the town held by the Free Syrian Army, he never had a weapon.

He said he had been “lonely” in London after arriving for his first term of university on October 6 last year.

He kept in contact by text with his Christian Serbian girlfriend who had gone to Miami in the US to study.

She called him by his pet name “little panda” and he told her he loved his “little sweetie” “more than anything in the world”.

Judge Peter Rook adjourned sentencing until February for pre-sentence reports.

Souaan began to cry as Judge Rook warned him that jail would be inevitable when he is sentenced on Tuesday February 3.

Remanding him in custody, the judge said: “You have been convicted of a very serious offence indeed. You must understand that you will be receiving a custodial sentence in this case.”

Published: Wednesday 17th December 2014 by The News Editor

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