UK: Aine Davis apologises for Syria activities as he is jailed for eight years
Aine Davis, a British man who travelled to opposition-held Syria during the country's civil war and was linked by the media to a notorious Islamic State (IS) execution cell, has been jailed for eight years in the UK on terrorism charges.
Speaking ahead of his sentencing on Monday, Davis's lawyer told the court that Davis wanted to apologise to the Syrian people.
He acknowledged, his lawyer said, that the presence of foreign fighting groups and people associated with them in the country had "caused more harm than good".
Davis, 39, was previously jailed in Turkey for seven-and-a-half years after being convicted in 2017 of being a member of IS - a charge he denied. He was arrested on his return to the UK after being deported from Turkey in August last year.
Last month, he pleaded guilty to one charge of possessing a firearm and two charges of funding terrorism between 2013 and 2014.
Davis's sentencing on Monday comes eight years and one day after he was arrested in a Turkish police raid in the Istanbul suburb of Silivri targeting an alleged IS safehouse.
Middle East Eye revealed last year that the villa where Davis was arrested was rented by an FBI informant, and that the Turkish police raid was triggered by a tip-off by an FBI liaison officer.
At the time of his arrest in Turkey, Davis was described in the media as a suspected member of a group of IS fighters from London nicknamed "the Beatles" who were responsible for the executions of a number of western hostages.
Davis denied any association with the group. He told the court during his Turkish trial that he believed he had been wrongly linked to the group because he had attended the same mosque in west London as Mohammad Emwazi, the masked man dubbed “Jihadi John” by the media who appeared in a number of IS execution videos.
Emwazi was killed by a US drone strike in Raqqa on 12 November 2015, the same day Davis was arrested by Turkish police. Two more members of the group, Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, are serving life sentences in the US.
During his Turkish court case, Davis denied being a fighter in Syria, and said he had travelled into the country in 2012 to take part in aid work during the then escalating civil war.
He conceded he had acted “stupidly” by posing for photos with guns and armed militants - photos that would later appear in British newspapers.
At the time of his arrest in Turkey, Davis was the subject of an Interpol red notice issued by British police. He told the court in Turkey he had travelled to Istanbul to acquire a fake passport because of the Interpol notice.
The Interpol notice, seen by MEE, said material seized from the phone of Amal El-Wahabi, Davis's former wife, included photos of him with “guns, an Islamic flag, a dead martyr and other individuals who are also armed”.
The red notice also said Davis had referred in messages to Wahabi to “being 'on point', believed to be a reference to assuming the most advanced position in a combat military formation advancing through hostile territory”.
'In-fighting and schisms'
Addressing the court on Monday, Davis's barrister Mark Summers KC said: "The reality he found when he arrived in Syria was profoundly different to anything he had ever imagined. What he thought he could achieve personally in a war zone transpired to be wholly and completely naive.
“Very little involved helping people of Syria. It involved most of the time in-fighting and schisms.
“He has a number of apologies to make through me today - the first is to the Syrian people. The presence of him, those like him and the groups he associated with there, caused more harm than good.”
Davis was sentenced to six years for possessing a firearm and two years for two terrorism funding relating to a plot for which Wahabi was also previously convicted for trying to send him money in Turkey.
In his sentencing remarks, Judge Mark Lucraft KC, told Davis that it was clear he had not been in Syria for lawful purposes.
“It is submitted on your behalf that there is much that has been said about you in the media and elsewhere that is not supported by evidence before the court," said Lucraft.
“I make it clear I am sentencing you for the offences on the indictment and for nothing else.”
'I hope this case sends a message that we will relentlessly pursue and seek to prosecute anyone involved in terrorism both in the UK and abroad, no matter how much time has passed'
- Dominic Murphy, head of the Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command
Commenting on Davis's sentencing, Nick Price, head of the Crown Prosecution Service's special crime and counter-terrorism division, said: “Davis left the UK and travelled to Syria to involve himself with a proscribed terrorist organisation.
“It is only right he has been convicted and imprisoned in this country.”
Dominic Murphy, head of the Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command, said: “It has been nearly 10 years since Davis committed these crimes, and I hope this case sends a message that we will relentlessly pursue and seek to prosecute anyone involved in terrorism both in the UK and abroad, no matter how much time has passed.”
Lucraft found that Davis was not a "dangerous offender", but told him he would a serve his entire custodial sentence and would be on licence for a further two years after his release.