Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland man Eamon Bradley dubbed 'Eamon of Arabia' is denied bail

By Alan Erwin

A man from Northern Ireland took part in three battles against Islamic State and the forces of the Syrian President - but didn't fire a single shot, the High Court has heard.

Eamon Bradley (25) from Londonderry also claimed that despite spending months at a training camp in Syria run by opposition groupings, he never used a weapon in combat.

Police were told he eventually decided to quit the Middle East and come home due to disillusionment at the chaotic tribal arrangements and his inability to speak Arabic.

Bradley, of Melmore Gardens in the city, is accused of possessing a grenade with intent to endanger life and receiving weapons and explosives training in Syria.

The charges, the first of their kind against a terror suspect returning to Northern Ireland from the region, were brought under new legislation dealing with matters outside the UK.

Bail was refused so that police can continue to examine computers and hard-drives seized from his home.

Bradley, who flew back into Dublin on October 31, was arrested last week following media reports that he had allegedly been fighting in the civil war in Syria.

Prosecutors told the court pictures of him with heavy-calibre ammunition, apparently taken in a Middle Eastern country, were found on his mother's mobile phone.

Another image of him in combat gear had been transferred onto a wall-mounted canvas print.

The accused was said to have converted to the Muslim faith six years ago and since then became increasingly aware of atrocities in Syria. During police questioning he claimed he decided to travel to the region to help the people there.

According to his account, he established contact on Facebook with an unknown person who directed him to a village on the Syrian/Turkish border known as a crossing point for engagement in the conflict. Having flown to Istanbul in February, he allegedly travelled on to an area where he was befriended by locals and learnt more about Islam.

The court was told he spent two months in a Syrian training camp under the control of a group known as the Army of Islam.

He was taught in the use of AK47 assault rifles, mortars and other weapons, it was alleged.

Bradley claimed to have taken part in three battles in Syrian cities: one in Idlib, another at Hama and a third in Aleppo.

Two of the engagements were against the Assad regime and the other against Isis forces. Prosecution counsel said he claimed to have been armed with an AK47, ammunition and a grenade but had not used any of the weapons.

"He said he became disillusioned and left the region, and that in order to do so he was facilitated with a Syrian passport in the name of a different male," added the prosecution.

Acknowledging the charges were based on Bradley's admissions during interview, the barrister contended that the full facts may not have been disclosed.

She questioned his version of having simply looked at a couple of websites before deciding to go to Syria "by chance".

Opposing bail, she cited the risk of potential reoffending - either in Northern Ireland or by returning to Syria.

"Although he has made admissions, there are grave concerns that he hasn't given the full picture, and concerns about why he may have been able to extract himself from Syria so apparently easily," the lawyer submitted.

"My instructions in relation to those involved in the fighting who leave Syria, it's in relation to either rest and recuperation, recruitment purposes or concern about offences being committed outside of Syria."

But Joe Brolly, defending, argued Bradley had gone out to the Middle East to aid and help defend the people of Syria - a cause also backed by the US-led coalition. "His passionate case is this was a matter of conscience for him to protect people from atrocities," he stressed. "There's no evidence he ever used a weapon."

The accused only came to police attention after posting pictures on Facebook of him on a horse in the Middle East, the court was told.

Mr Brolly said: "He became known as 'Eamon of Arabia' by the Press."

With 118 different tribal organisations involved in the Free Syrian Army resistance movement, Bradley was said to have left due to being a "fish out of water", unable to speak the language.

"He returned home disillusioned because there was no proper command structure, there were so many different tribes and he had terrible language problems," his lawyer claimed.

"It's an extraordinary odyssey."

The barrister also claimed the training camp Bradley attended was probably run by the CIA.

Refusing bail, however, Mr Justice Burgess said police should be given more time to analyse the mobile phones and computer equipment seized in the investigation.

"It may well be that this applicant is everything that he has said, and has absolutely no intention of aligning himself with some of these other groups," the judge stated.

"But the public interest dictates that police be afforded the opportunity to carry out their investigations."

He also confirmed his intention to review progress in their inquiries in two weeks.

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