LONDON: A British man who travelled to Syria to join Daesh and later returned to the UK has been found guilty of terrorism offences including sharing beheading videos.
Stefan Aristidou, 27, entered guilty pleas to four terror offences at the Old Bailey, London, and will be sentenced in September.
According to the BBC, he is just the fourteenth person convicted of terrorism charges out of hundreds who have returned to the UK from Syria after joining jihadist groups.
Aristidou travelled to Syria in 2015 alongside his newly married wife, Kolsoma Begum.
They were reported missing by concerned family members, but it later emerged that they had travelled to Raqqa, Syria — the then “capital” of Daesh’s self-declared caliphate.
In 2017, when they fled Syria, the two were convicted of Daesh membership in Turkey and sentenced to six years in prison. However, Begum, then pregnant with their child, had already returned to the UK when handed that sentence.
Aristidou, who is an ethnically Cypriot convert to Islam, was deported from Turkey this year, and arrested on his arrival to the UK.
He had a phone with him that had not been used since before his arrest in Turkey in April 2017.
It contained text exchanges with his wife, the final one of which said he was “giving self into Kuffar” — or non-Muslims.
He admitted to terror offences committed in 2014, before he went to Syria, in which he had disseminated videos of public executions and beheadings carried out by Daesh.
Aristidou’s case highlights the difficulty that Western countries including Britain face when prosecuting people for their actions in Syria.
The BBC reported that just three percent of the approximately 450 British returnees from Daesh have been convicted of terror crimes for their actions.
Five people in total have been convicted of Daesh membership, but only two of them are returnees from Syria — meaning people are more likely to be convicted of joining the group if they have never actually been to Syria.
No one who returned to the UK after joining jihadist groups has been charged with offences under war crimes or torture legislation, which both provide an avenue of prosecution for crimes committed outside UK borders.