Man posed with guns to 'look cool'
A student accused of joining rebel forces in Syria has said he only posed for pictures with guns because he wanted to look "cool".
David Souaan had allegedly visited the war-torn country to fight and was planning to return when he was stopped and arrested at Heathrow on May 31 this year.
The prosecution has pointed out a mass of pictures, videos and documents found on his phone and computer showing his "extremist sympathies".
But in his defence, the 20-year-old insisted he only went there for two nights in December last year to help retrieve his 82-year-old grandfather's belongings after he had fled with just the clothes on his back.
And photographs of him with a range of guns were just to keep as "trophies", jurors at the Old Bailey were told.
Souaan said his grandfather's house had been destroyed in the war and he had been forced to flee to Urfa, in Turkey.
It was during a visit to Turkey that the elderly man persuaded Souaan's father to collect his property from his home town of Deir ez-Zor in Syria.
The defendant said: "My father told me that he is going to travel so I told him, 'let me come with you' because in a sense although there was a guarantee from my father it would be safe, I was still worried about my father. I still wanted to go to give him support."
Asked if he also wanted to go for himself, he replied: "In a sense, yes. I did want to go for myself, just to see how the town looks like."
Souaan was quizzed about a series of pictures of him posing with a variety of different guns during the trip.
He said: "I thought it was interesting and I wanted to show it to my brother as well.
"There is no specific reason but for me, at the time, it seemed interesting. It was something new. "
His lawyer Ali Bajwa QC pressed: "Why so many of you posing with weapons or firearms?"
Souaan replied: "Because at the time when I was there I felt something like I wanted some trophy - the photos.
"As the teenagers say nowadays, it looks 'cool'. So that was the reason."
He insisted that while he was in the town held by the Free Syrian Army he never had a weapon himself and nor did his father or any of the people charged with keeping them safe.
The Birkbeck College student told the court how his father was Syrian Muslim and his mother was Serbian Christian.
He described to jurors how his family had become wealthy after his father set up a successful construction business in Serbia but maintained strong family ties to Syria.
He studied at an international school in Serbia because he wanted to go to university abroad.
He was given a three-year student visa and began studying global politics and international relations at Birkbeck College in London, living in halls of residence in Malet Street.
But after he arrived in London for his first term of university on October 6 last year he said he was "lonely" and did not make many new friends.
The court heard how the devout Muslim exchanged loving texts with his Christian Serbian girlfriend who had gone to Miami to study.
She called him by his pet name "little panda" and he told her he loved his "little sweetie" "more than anything in the world".
Asked to describe his first term, Souaan said: "I would describe my feelings as mixed. I was looking forward to coming to London, attending university, it was a new experience", adding: "I would say it was fine but I was feeling a little bit lonely."
Souaan denies a charge of preparing for terrorist acts in Syria around the time he was stopped by police at Heathrow airport on May 31 this year.