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Syria terror accused Bradley returned to Derry because he missed granny, trial told

By George Jackson

A man who was charged with terrorism offences after travelling to Syria told police he returned home because he missed his grandmother, a court heard yesterday.

Eamon Bradley is alleged to have attended a terrorist training camp in a mountainous area along the Turkish border, receiving training in heavy weaponry and explosives.

He is additionally charged with possessing a grenade with intent to endanger life or cause damage to property.

The 28-year-old denies committing the offences, which are said to have taken place between March and October 2014.

A detective constable who interviewed the defendant told Londonderry Crown Court he had asked him if he had ever travelled to Syria.

When asked by defence barrister Brian McCartney QC why the Creggan man had returned home, the policeman said Bradley told him he had become disillusioned with the country and had told members of his family that "he had been missing his granny".

The detective constable added: "I am sure most terrorists like their grannies."

Later, one of the UK's leading experts in Middle Eastern conflicts told the trial that the group Bradley joined had no legitimacy in the country.

Dr Matthew Wilkinson, an expert in Islamic studies at University College London, was giving evidence on the seventh day of the trial.

The expert, a witness in the first prosecution case of its kind in Northern Ireland, converted to Islam after he left Cambridge University aged 21.

He told the court that he had also been an imam at a mosque in Norwich for approximately four years.

Dr Wilkinson said he had taken part as an expert witness in 22 counter-terrorism trials in the UK in the last four years.

He described Jaysh Al-Islam, which the defendant said he joined and fought with, as a mixture of various guerrilla groups which at the time of the alleged offences had 25,000 soldiers in its ranks.

Their primary objective was to overthrow the Assad regime and establish a State based on Sharia law, and its followers believed that soldiers killed in battle were martyrs.

Dr Wilkinson said that initially, when it came to power during the 1970s, the Assad regime brought political and economic stability to the country.

However, the ruling family later started to "use pernicious and horrible methods against local citizens".

During eight interviews with police following his arrest in November 2014 after he returned from Syria, the defendant said he joined Jaysh Al-Islam to fight against Islamic State and the Assad regime after he saw pictures of babies being taken from bombed buildings.

Mr McCartney told jurors the defendant went to Syria to help, not fight.

"Images of humanity being pulverised in the dust of Aleppo are what led him to go there," he added.

He added: "The images of babies being pulled out of rubble and images of Aleppo being pulverised, they were the images which brought him to Syria".

The trial continues.

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