UK friends who planned Syria journey on TripAdvisor jailed for trying to join ISIS
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Two friends who planned their journey to Syria on TripAdvisor have each been jailed for 14 years for preparing to join Islamic State.
Safwaan Mansur and Hanzalah Patel, both 22, used the travel review site to check out an area near the Syrian border before travelling to Turkey in 2016 and 2017. Prosecutors claimed the men tried to explain away their travel plans as an “innocent camping holiday”.
The pair were sentenced at Birmingham crown court on Monday after they were convicted of preparing for terrorist acts in support of Isis.
On their first trip to Turkey, in 2016, the pair took a 24-hour bus to Hatay province, an area near the Syrian border described in court as a “transit area” to the country. Mansur claimed he went there to “have a look” like “lots of other tourists”.
They were arrested at an Istanbul hotel in 2017 and spent nine days in a Turkish jail before being returned to the UK.
The pair had been reported missing by family members earlier that year, with Patel’s father saying he had become concerned when he found out his son had lied about leading prayers at a German mosque.
Defence lawyers said the men formed a “naive and idiotic” plan to cross into Syria but had no intention of fighting or committing acts of terrorism.
The friends had outdoor survival kit such as water purifiers and solar chargers in their luggage, which Mansur claimed were gifts for friends in Germany. Outlining Mansur’s account, the prosecutor Simon Davis said: “The people at the mosque liked outdoor pursuits like camping – that was the explanation being given.”
Mansur, of Aston, and Patel, of Leicester, were convicted by jurors on 1 April after a two-week trial.
The acting head of the West Midlands counter-terrorism unit, Ch Supt Shaun Edwards, 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.”