the mother of a man jailed for over 12 years for travelling to Syria to fight the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad says she was “betrayed” by police.
Majida Sarwar discovered her 22 year old son Yusuf had travelled there in May 2013 and immediately contacted the West Midlands police.
She gave them a letter Yusuf had written explaining that he wasn’t on a college trip to Turkey as he claimed, but had gone to Syria.
“They said I was doing the right thing, that when my son came back they would try to help.”
But when Yusuf and Mohammed Nahin Ahmed, the childhood friend he had travelled with, arrived back in January they were immediately arrested at Heathrow airport.
Majida said, “The police say ‘mothers come forward’, you can trust us, we will help. But now they will see what happened to my son.”
Last week Yusuf and Mohammed were sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Majida is tormented about what the police did after she went to them, “What kind of person would go to the police if they think their son will get 12 years in prison?
“Nobody wants to do that. I did not want that.”
The men had denied charges of terror related offences but changed the plea to guilty before a jury was sworn in to hear the case in July.
Majida compared her son’s sentence with the two years handed down to English Defence League supporter and British soldier convicted of bomb-making last month.
“My son is not a terrorist, he didn’t make bombs, he didn’t kill anyone.”
She said, “He tried to help. He did a stupid thing and when he realised this he wanted to come home.”
The court heard that the men wanted to support the Free Syrian Army in the struggle against the Assad regime.
They left after a number of weeks because they didn’t want to get involved with Islamic State forces.
The evidence included comments posted on Facebook about the weather in Syria and fighting jihad, and photos of themselves with toy and real guns.
The judge described the men as “fundamentalists” but Majida dismissed claims that the men were religious extremists.
She pointed out that they knew so little they bought the books Islam for dummies and The Koran for Dummies before the trip.
This case has resulted in the most severe sentences being given to young Muslims arrested after returning from Syria.
It is part of the government’s ramping up their
anti-terror campaign which has seen Muslims disproportionately targeted.
Yusuf’s family says they will appeal.