Two friends convicted of preparing for terrorist acts in support of the so-called Islamic State after trying to reach Syria have been jailed.
Safwaan Mansur, from Birmingham, and Hanzalah Patel, from Leicester, travelled to Turkey in 2016 and 2017 after checking out an area near the Syrian border on TripAdvisor, a two-week trial was told.
Prosecutors alleged that the men had attempted to explain away their travel plans as an “innocent camping holiday”.
The men were each sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on Monday to 14 years in prison, West Midlands Police said.
At the men’s trial, jurors heard that the pair, who spent nine days in jail in Turkey in 2017 after being arrested at an Istanbul hotel, bought camping equipment, outdoor survival clothing and airline tickets before travelling initially to Germany.
Prosecutors alleged that Mansur, 22, of Hampton Road, Aston, and Patel, also 22, of Frederick Road, Leicester, undertook a 24-hour bus journey from Istanbul to near the Syrian border during a previous visit to Turkey in 2016.
The men were arrested at Heathrow Airport in 2017 after being reported missing by family members.
Patel’s father contacted police in June that year after becoming concerned, having learned that his son had lied about leading prayers at a mosque in Germany.
During subsequent questioning by police, the men’s trial heard that Mansur said he had gone to Turkey’s Hatay province – described in court as a “transit area” for Syria – in 2016 to “have a look” like “lots of other tourists”.
Claiming items including water purifiers and solar chargers were found in the men’s luggage, Simon Davis, prosecuting, told the court: “Mr Patel, when interviewed, throughout maintained a no comment stance, as was his right.”
Jurors were told that Mansur said items in his luggage were gifts for friends at a mosque in Germany, where he intended to stop off en route to or from Turkey.
Outlining Mansur’s account, Mr Davis told the jury panel: “The people at the mosque liked outdoor pursuits like camping – that was the explanation being given.”
Lawyers acting for both defendants said the men had formed a “naive and idiotic” plan to cross into Syria, but had no intention of fighting or committing acts of terrorism.
However, jurors convicted the pair after trial, on April 1.
Following sentencing, acting head of the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit Chief Superintendent 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.”