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Mum who took child to Syria tells jury 'I didn't know about Islamic State'

Published 21/01/2016

Tareena Shakil, 26, a British mother who allegedly took her toddler to Syria to join Islamic State
Tareena Shakil, 26, a British mother who allegedly took her toddler to Syria to join Islamic State

A mother accused of taking her son to Syria to join Islamic State (IS) has told a court she feared going straight to hell if she stayed in England.

Tareena Shakil claimed conversations with a man named Fabio Pocas, whose online profile showed an armed man posing with the black flag of IS, helped to convince her to move to the self-declared caliphate.

The bright 26-year-old former college student said Pocas spoke of the perils of "living in the land of non-believers" before she travelled to Syria in October 2014.

However, she claimed to have been ignorant of the nature of IS, also known as Isis, and only discovered more about the group when she returned home in February 2015.

Shakil denies joining the banned terror group and encouraging acts of terror through Twitter posts.

She told a jury at Birmingham Crown Court: "He (Pocas) said you can't live in a country not ruled by sharia, its haram (forbidden)."

"He said 'look sister, you staying in England, just think, you're hanging over the gates of Jahannam (hell), and if you die the gates will open and that's where you'll be going.

Shakil, of Beechfield Road in Birmingham but formerly of Burton upon Trent Staffordshire, said she blocked Pocas online because she thought he was coming on to her.

However, the jury has read a log of what is said to be Shakil's Samsung phone which showed that having blocked Pocas on Facebook she was entering his name as a search term in YouTube a month later.

Married Shakil, who was giving her account for the first time, said she had been retweeting images of the black flag of IS but had no idea of their direct association with the terror group.

Instead, she said that to her it merely bore the shahada - the Islamic declaration of faith.

In relation to a series of other images and Islamic passages which the Crown claims show she was supporting terrorism, Shakil said she only retweeted things if she liked the look or sound of them.

Asked by Tim Moloney QC, her barrister, if they were meant to encourage acts of terror she replied: "No, not at all."

In one case, she retweeted: "Do I care what you have to say about IS. Noooo."

But she told jurors that this was meant "As in the caliphate, not the mujahideen (the group's fighters)".

In early September, she tweeted Sally Ann Jones, a jihadi widow who travelled to Syria and is alleged to have married fellow British extremist Junaid Hussain, who was killed in a US drone strike last year.

Asked to explain what she meant by her tweet, which read "Wish I was there", Shakil said it was just a reference to living in the self-declared caliphate.

Shakil went on: " I knew where she was, the Islamic State, but at that time I didn't know about the Islamic State."

She added: "I didn't know who this woman was nor had I read any of the disgusting things she said online.

"It was only after, when interviewed by police, that I found out who she was and what she had said.

"I wouldn't have even referred to her as 'sister', if I knew any of the things she had said."

She was also asked about her YouTube search in October of the extremist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, killed in a US drone strike in Yemen in 2011, she said she just liked his stories about the Islamic tradition.

"As far as him being aligned to Al Qaeda, I don't dispute that," she said.

"But I didn't find that out until much later."

Opening the case against Shakil last week, Sean Larkin QC for the prosecution said Shakil was "radicalised" in 2014, and started posting messages and pictures in support of IS.

He said: " This was no spur of the moment decision. This was planned."

Mr Larkin added: "She travelled to Raqqa to set up her new life as part of Isis."

The trial continues.

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