An Iraqi-Kurd man has been found guilty of planning a terror attack using a bomb in a remotely-controlled vehicle.
Farhad Salah, 24, was found guilty at Sheffield Crown Court on Friday of preparing to commit acts of terrorism.
Jurors heard that Salah posted on social media about using a driverless car in an attack. But the jury cleared his co-defendant, Chesterfield chip shop owner Andy Star, 32, who was charged with the same offence.
This is the second time Salah and Mr Star have been tried on these charges. A jury failed to reach verdicts on either man following a trial last year.
Judge Paul Watson QC told Mr Star a decision had been made that he should not face a second retrial and a not guilty verdict was recorded in his case.
He said Mr Star could go free but was informed that he will continue to be detained on immigration matters.
The judge said Salah will be sentenced on July 24. Prosecutors told the five-week trial that Salah and Mr Star were in the early stages of testing small improvised explosive devices when they were arrested in high-profile raids on their homes in a Sheffield community centre and a Chesterfield fish and chip shop in December 2017.
But Mr Star has always insisted that gunpowder and other items found in his flat above the chip shop were all connected to his long-standing interest in fireworks. Salah was found guilty on a majority of 10 to 2 after the jury deliberated for almost three days.
When the judge recorded Star’s formal acquittal, a woman shouted “Terrorist” loudly from the jury box. Counter-terror police said Salah was not close to achieving his aim of putting a device in a vehicle but officers believe he was a “very real risk to the safety of the public in the UK”.
The raids in Sheffield and Chesterfield happened in the months following the Manchester Arena explosion, the terror attacks on Westminster and London Bridge, and at a time when there were fears that another atrocity was being planned for the Christmas period.
But police said they have never been able to identify Salah’s intended target.
Opening the case, prosecutor Anne Whyte QC told the jury: “The intention was to manufacture a device which would be placed in a vehicle but controlled remotely so that no-one had to martyr themselves in the process.”
She said that, a week before he was arrested, Salah messaged a contact on Facebook saying: “My only attempt is to find a way to carry out martyrdom operation with cars without driver, everything is perfect only the programme is left …”
The prosecutor said: “Farhad Salah had decided that improvised explosive devices could be made and used in a way here in the UK that spared his own life preferably but harmed others he considered to be infidels.”
The court heard how both defendants are Iraqi nationals.
Salah arrived at Heathrow Airport in December 2014 and applied for asylum. This application had not been determined by the time he was arrested. Mr Star was arrested in 2008 on suspicion of being an illegal immigrant and later told officials he had arrived in the UK by lorry.
He was given “leave to remain” in 2010 and eventually given refugee status, with “indefinite leave to remain” in February 2016.
At the beginning of the trial, Miss Whyte told the jury that Salah was a supporter of Islamic State (IS), despite him being an Iraqi-Kurd – a nationality usually associated with the fight against the terror group.
Gunpowder, homemade fuses and explosive chemicals were found when Mr Star’s Mermaid Fish Bar, in Chesterfield, was raided by armed police and similar items were found in the Fatima Community Centre, in Sheffield, were Salah lived.
Prosecutors told the jury that the items found in the raided premises showed the pair were testing small-scale explosive devices at both locations and the primary “laboratory” was at the chip shop, but Mr Star told police and both his trials that it was just paraphernalia connected with making fireworks.
Salah, of Brunswick Road, Sheffield, showed no emotion as he was led from the dock.