A 27-year-old man has today (Tuesday 12 September) been convicted of planning to travel to Syria to engage in terrorism.
Ismael Watson, of no fixed address, was found guilty of preparing for acts of terrorism under Section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006, following a two-day trial at London’s Central Criminal Court. Watson refused to leave prison to attend the trial and was convicted in his absence and remains in custody awaiting sentencing.
Watson was stopped by officials in July 2016, as he tried to cross into Syria from the Turkish border, where he intended to fight in the warzone with Daesh.
Watson was deported back to Heathrow, where he was arrested by officers from the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit.
Ismael Watson, originally born Jack Watson, moved to the West Midlands after undergoing an Islamic marriage in September 2015.
The police investigation began In November that year, when his former wife called police concerned Watson was becoming radicalised and holding extremist views, as well as downloading Daesh inspired literature and videos. She told Officers he’d told her he wanted to travel to Syria as part of an aid convoy.
The marriage ended a couple of months later and Watson was reported missing by his family to police in February 2016.
Enquiries revealed he had attempted to fly to Marrakech in Morocco from Manchester, but had been stopped by authorities. He told officers he wanted to travel to Morocco on holiday, following his marriage break-up and the day after he managed to fly there from Gatwick Airport. His family grew concerned when he failed to catch his flight home and contacted their local officers.
In April 2016 Watson was detained by Turkish authorities for immigration matters but released a few weeks later. He was eventually stopped again as he tried to cross the border into Syria in July 2016 and deported back to the UK in February this year, where he was arrested at the airport.
Watson admitted to police he became radicalised and intended to enter Syria and commit terrorist acts.
He will be sentenced at a future date.
Chief Superintendent Matt Ward, who heads the force’s counter terror unit said: "Anyone intending to travel to Syria or Iraq to fight or to commit terrorist acts against the UK or our interests should be in no doubt that the police will take the strongest possible action against them.
"Everyone who returns from taking part in the conflict in Syria or Iraq must expect to be reviewed by the police to determine if they have committed criminal offences and to ensure that they do not pose a threat to our national security.
"There is always the danger that our local people will be trained and come back and be a threat to the UK. We also need to be aware of the far reaching effects on local communities and the families of those involved.
"If anyone is concerned that a friend or family member is thinking of travelling to Syria it is very important that they tell us as soon as possible. Police and other agencies can offer support to help safeguard those who are vulnerable to radicalisers.
"Everybody has a responsibility for stopping people thinking of travelling to Syria or other warzones, including families and carers, who know them and are able to spot the early signs of radicalisation and we work in partnership with community members and groups to do this".
"The sooner we can intervene, the better chance we have of preventing people from becoming embroiled in the conflict and facing potential prosecution."
Anyone concerned about someone travelling to, or returning from, Syria or another conflict zone or is worried about someone showing signs of being radicalised should contact their local police on 101 or visit www.preventtragedies.co.uk to access relevant support and advice.
Report suspicious activity to the police by calling confidentially on 0800 789 321 or visiting www.gov.uk/ACT