The first Briton to face a terror trial for fighting against Islamic State in Syria said he wanted to stop “the world’s biggest evil” and was willing to use guns and explosives for the cause, the Old Bailey heard today.
Aidan James, 28, had no prior military experience when he went to a “safe house” in Iraq for weapons training, before crossing into Syria to join up with Kurdish forces fighting against the Islamist extremist group, it is said.
The father of one, from Merseyside, posted on Facebook before leaving the UK that he would be “in Syria fighting side by side with brothers in arms”, and he ignored anti-terror efforts to stop him from joining the war.
In his diary, James revealed his desire to oppose the “sickness” of IS, describing it as a “calling” and writing: “If it means me picking up a weapon and fighting for what is right then I will do.”
He noted that “it feels like my only option”, and he wanted to be “part of a revolution, part of a movement to help humanity and help people live free from oppression and free to practise your faith no matter what it be”.
Prosecutor Mark Heywood QC said James’s training in Britain was “amateurish” at first, but gradually he prepared himself for the conflict in Syria, which he entered in November 2017.
Opening the case today, Mr Heywood said people with no prior link to the region who joined the fighting after the war began have “fuelled the violence”.
He added: “The prosecution case against Mr James is that he went as an individual to Syria to fight with guns and explosives. In doing so, he set out to advance a political and ideological cause, that of the Kurdish people.
“Because his intended use or threat of active violence was of that kind and for those purposes, the law says that what he wanted to do was terrorism, even if his eventual fighting was against other terrorists, others who had gone to Syria with their own cause to pursue.”
When James posted on Facebook about his intention to travel to Syria, Merseyside police warned him he could face prosecution. He was then arrested and his passport seized, but when no further action was taken he restarted his plan to go to Syria.
James denies engaging in conduct in preparation of acts of terrorism, and two charges of attendance at a place used for terrorist training. He accepts he went to training camps and joined the fighting in Syria. The trial continues.