Radicalised at home in Walsall, the Muslim convert found guilty of trying to travel to fight for ISIS in Syria
A Muslim convert who was radicalised online in his Walsall home has been found guilty of trying to fight for ISIS in Syria.
Ismael Watson, formerly known as Jack, admitted flying to Turkey and trying to cross the border into the war-torn country, the Old Bailey in London was told.
The 27-year-old was intercepted by Turkish authorities and deported to the UK after vowing to carry out terrorist atrocities during encrypted chats with undercover MI5 agents.
Prosecutors said the chats on the app Telegram show Watson’s ‘hatred for Western society’ and his determination to fight in a ‘holy war against Western oppressors’.
But he denied preparing to commit acts of terrorism, claiming the UK’s courts have no authority over him.
Jurors heard Watson grew up with a non-Muslim family in Liverpool before he converted to Islam and moved to Walsall.
They heard once he moved to the town he became ‘quickly radicalised’ after watching ISIS videos online in 2015.
Prosecutor Mr Oliver Glasgow, QC, said: “Between January of last year and February of this year, Ismael Watson made preparations to travel to Syria in order that he could join and fight for the terrorist group Islamic State.” Mr Glasgow said Watson flew to Turkey and then tried to arrange to cross the border into Syria with jihadis he contacted on encrypted messaging app Telegram.
“Little did he realise when he was speaking to people on the internet that two of those with whom he discussed his plans were officers working for the security services, and that everything he said to them was being recorded,” said the prosecutor.
Jurors were told Watson’s encrypted chats with undercover agents ‘reveal the extent of his hatred for Western society and his avowed intent to take part in terrorist activity’.
Mr Glasgow said: “There is no doubt that had he succeeded in his attempt to enter Syria he would have joined IS and that he would have fought for them.” Watson’s mother described him as ‘meek, mild and easily influenced’.
In September 2015 he married Sharmina Begum at the Green Lane Mosque in Birmingham, but he became so radical that she left him. Watson, of no fixed address but last living in Walsall, denies preparing to commit acts of terrorism between January 1, 2016 and 23 February this year.
The court also heard he tried to slick his hair back with gel to make himself look more Syrian.
He offered no defence and the jury took just 45 minutes to convict him today.
He will be sentenced tomorrow.
Chief Superintendent Matt Ward, who heads the force’s counter terror unit said: "Anyone intending to travel to Syria or Iraq to fight or to commit terrorist acts against the UK or our interests should be in no doubt that the police will take the strongest possible action against them.
"Everyone who returns from taking part in the conflict in Syria or Iraq must expect to be reviewed by the police to determine if they have committed criminal offences and to ensure that they do not pose a threat to our national security.
"There is always the danger that our local people will be trained and come back and be a threat to the UK. We also need to be aware of the far reaching effects on local communities and the families of those involved.
"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.
"Everybody has a responsibility for stopping people thinking of travelling to Syria or other warzones, including families and carers, who know them and are able to spot the early signs of radicalisation and we work in partnership with community members and groups to do this".
"The sooner we can intervene, the better chance we have of preventing people from becoming embroiled in the conflict and facing potential prosecution."
Anyone concerned about someone travelling to, or returning from, Syria or another conflict zone or is worried about someone showing signs of being radicalised should contact their local police on 101 or visit www.preventtragedies.co.uk to access relevant support and advice.
Report suspicious activity to the police by calling confidentially on 0800 789 321 or visiting www.gov.uk/ACT