Media reports sparked probe into Syria terror accused, court is told
A Londonderry man charged with committing terrorist offences in Syria was in Aleppo when the city was being pulverised, a court heard yesterday.
The police's investigation into Creggan man Eamon Bradley (28) was launched after media reports that he had travelled to the war-torn country to fight Islamic State (IS) and the Assad regime, the hearing at Derry Crown Court was told.
On the third day of the trial, a detective constable who interviewed Bradley after his arrest at his Melmore Gardens home said media images of the defendant riding a donkey were among the factors that sparked their investigation.
Bradley denies attending a terrorist training camp in Syria and receiving weapons training. He also denies possessing a grenade with intent.
The defendant, who converted to Islam before he travelled to the country via Turkey, is alleged to have committed the offences between March and October 2014.
Cross-examined by defence barrister Brian McCartney QC, the detective constable agreed the case was "a bit different".
The officer claimed that during one police interview the defendant said he and a group of fighters in the Syrian mountains were targeted by an IS car bomber. The bomber died in the blast, but neither the defendant nor anyone he was with was injured.
Asked why Bradley was allowed to roam the streets of Derry for a week after returning from Syria in November 2014, the officer said police were gathering evidence that eventually led to a reasonable suspicion that he been in Syria.
The officer said that evidence came from media reports and Facebook, which contained images of Bradley beside a tank and posing with AK-47s.
Mr McCartney told the jury the police had taken "an evidential leap" because there was no independent evidence to suggest the AK-47 rifles were genuine or holiday trophy photographs.
"Sometimes, with the best intentions, people admit to things they were not involved in," he said.
The barrister added that at the time the defendant said he was in Aleppo, "it was called Dante's Inferno".
"It was like hell on earth," he added. "One of the most beautiful garden cities in the world was pulverised".
The trial continues.