U.K. Woman Gets 28 Months in Underwear Plot to Aid TerrorismJeremy Hodges
A 28-year-old woman was sentenced to 28 months in prison by a London judge over a failed plot to smuggle 20,000 euros ($25,000) in a friend’s underwear to her jihadist husband in Syria.
Amal El-Wahabi is the first person in the U.K. found guilty of funding Syrian terrorism. Her friend, Nawal Msaad, was cleared of any wrongdoing at a trial earlier this year.
El-Wahabi’s lawyer, Mark Summers, told the court that his client had no “terrorist ambition” and was under pressure from her husband to send the money to Syria, where he had joined Islamic State militants. Judge Nicholas Hilliard reduced the sentence, taking into account the influence El-Wahabi’s husband had over her and because she has two small children.
“I am satisfied that you knew that he was engaged in violence with guns,” Hilliard said today. Supporting her husband “had its roots in your relationship with him and not in extremist beliefs.”
European nations face a growing challenge confronting terrorists at home as violence in the Middle East inspires calls from jihadist groups for attacks around the world. German authorities yesterday arrested nine men suspected of backing Islamist fighters in Syria, including two who allegedly helped recruit and channel militants to the war zone.
Over a six-month period El-Wahabi exchanged 9,000 messages with her husband and was deliberately manipulated by him. She committed the offense because she was “infatuated” with him, the judge said.
“You even contemplated taking your children to Turkey to be nearer their father, when it should have been obvious to you it was in their interests they should be as far away from him as possible,” Judge Hilliard said. “Any interest he had in you was only engaged when there was some advantage to him.”
Prosecution lawyer, Kate Wilkinson, said that El-Wahabi’s encouragement of her husband went further than the offer of financial assistance. It was implicit in the WhatsApp messages she sent to him.
“When does your next adventure start?” she asks in one message. “I am sure you will enjoy it.”
El-Wahabi’s lawyer, Summers, said that in January of this year the Islamic State was not the organization it is now.
“The terrorism with which this crime is concerned was not the type of atrocities that we associate with Isis now,” he said.
London’s Metropolitan Police Service, which arrested 69 people on terrorism-related offenses in the first six months of 2014, said today’s sentencing should be seen as a message to anyone seeking to support terrorist activities.
“A necessary component of terrorism is finance,” Terri Nicholson of the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism unit, said in a statement. “Whether the funding of terrorism takes place in the U.K. or overseas, the offenses are serious and will be subject to thorough investigation.”