Jihadi's uncle jailed for using aid convoy to smuggle cash for nephew's gun
The uncle of a jihadi fighter has been jailed for five-and-half-years for infiltrating Syria-bound aid convoys to smuggle £4,500 to help his nephew buy a gun.
Father-of-four Syed Hoque, 37, was found guilty of two charges of funding terrorism on December 23 and was given a concurrent sentence at the Old Bailey on Friday.
His "fixer" Mashoud Miah, 28, was convicted on one count of the same charge by a majority following the trial and jailed for two-and-a-half years.
Sentencing, Judge John Bevan QC said: "Both of you sought to abuse the legitimate aid convoys which depend on integrity if they are to function properly."
The aid convoys were used as a "means of moving money and other property out of the UK to Syria", prosecutor Annabel Darlow QC said during the trial.
Hoque, a former probation officer, sent £4,500 to his nephew who was fighting with an al Qaida-linked group in Syria.
His nephew Mohammed Choudhury, 26, sent WhatsApp messages begging for money to buy a Dragunov sniper rifle.
Hoque was put in touch with gas engineer "fixer" Miah, who travelled to and from Syria with aid convoys in 2012 and 2013.
Miah, who was convicted of helping Hoque get £1,500 to Syria, was cleared of a further charge over an alleged plot to create a "night team" in Syria.
Two co-defendants were cleared at the trial last month of involvement - including Pervez Rafiq, a prominent charity fundraiser who counted tragic aid worker Alan Henning as a colleague and friend.
Miah was accused of drawing up a list of the equipment needed and delegating the job of sourcing much of it to Mr Rafiq and Mohammed Hussain, who was also cleared.
Hoque, of Stoke-on-Trent, Miah, of east London, Mr Hussain, 30, of east London, and Mr Rafiq, 46, of Birkby, Huddersfield, denied the charges against them.
Hoque and Miah looked straight ahead and showed no emotion as they received the sentences on Friday.
Defending, Lawrence McNulty QC said Hoque had "concern for the weak and the underprivileged" and Miah's defence counsel David Gottlieb said Miah was the kind of person who would "try to help anybody".
Mr Gottlieb said Miah was an "aid worker who had seen the effects of the Assad regime" who had "crossed the line and broke the law".
Judge Bevan dismissed suggestions that they had acted on moral grounds, stating: "There is no such thing as noble-cause terrorism."
Mr McNulty argued that the British Government had been involved "fomenting opposition to the Assad regime from as early as 2005".
In mitigation, he said "the British Government has supported rebel groups by funding ... and the supply of arms to the rebel groups" on a more extensive basis.
But Judge Bevan dismissed the attempt to "turn this to some extent into a political trial".
He said Hoque had acted as though he was the "only sheriff in town" and claimed it was "unattractive" that he was "prepared to encourage" his then 22-year-old nephew Choudhury to fight in Syria.
Hoque was "prepared to sacrifice him if necessary" despite being the same "flesh and blood", the judge added.
During the trial, Hoque said he knew that Syrian President Bashar Assad was a "tyrant" who was "killing indiscriminately" and that Choudhury initially told him he was in Syria for "humanitarian" reasons.
He later learned his nephew was fighting in Syria "in defence of those who cannot defend themselves".
However, he denied being aware of any connection with Jabhat al-Nusra, a terrorist organisation representing al Qaida in Syria.