A British Muslim convert who joined Islamic State has apologized to people in Syria after admitting his presence “did more harm than good”, a court heard while he was jailed for eight years.
Aine Leslie Davis, 39, once suspected of being a member of the so-called Islamic State death squad, nicknamed The Beatles, was sentenced at the Old Bailey on Monday.
He was deported from Turkey last August and detained on arrival at Luton airport after serving a seven-and-a-half year sentence for belonging to IS.
Last month, he admitted possession of a firearm contrary to section 57 of the Terrorism Act 2000, and two counts of terrorist financing, after the Court of Appeal dismissed an attempt to have the charges dropped.
The charges dating from 2013 and 2014 related to images with Davis’s then-wife while in Syria and a failed attempt to send her €20,000 via an unwitting courier.
Davis has always denied being linked to the Beatles cell – named for his British accent – that tortured and beheaded Western hostages in Syria.
Two members of the ISIS Beatles, British citizens El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, are serving life sentences in US prisons.
The third Beatle, Mohammed Emwazi, nicknamed Jihadi John, who was believed to have appeared in shocking videos of IS beheadings of captives, was killed in a drone strike in 2015.
Davis’s legal team had claimed that US authorities had accepted there was no fourth Beatle, while the Court of Appeal said any plans to extradite him there were “ephemeral and ruled out”.
Without reference to the Beatles, Mark Summers KC apologized to the Syrian people on behalf of Davis, saying that the accused and those like him “did more harm than good.”
Summers said: “The reality he found when he arrived in Syria was profoundly different to anything he had imagined. What he thought she could personally accomplish in a war zone turned out to be completely and completely naïve.
”Very little involved helping the people of Syria. Most of the time it was about infighting and schisms.”
Having “misunderstood” his religious obligations to travel to Syria, Davis left in January 2014 after witnessing “atrocities” and accomplished nothing significant, he said.
Summers said: “He has several apologies to make through me today; the first is for the Syrian people. His presence, that of those like him and the groups he associated with there, caused more harm than good.”
In a televised sentencing at the Old Bailey on Monday, Judge Mark Lucraft KC sentenced Davis to six years in prison for the firearms offense and two years for terrorist financing consecutively.
The judge told him: “From the messages and images you sent to your wife, it is clear that you have been with fighters in Syria and that you were not there for legal purposes. There are images of him in possession of firearms in November 2013.”
Referring to the widely reported allegations for which Davis was not charged, the judge added: “I make it clear that I will sentence him for the crimes of the indictment and nothing more.”
Davis’ terrorist activities date back to 2013, when he left his home in London and left to join the armed conflict in Syria, having previously converted to Islam and spent time in the Middle East.
The evidence was largely uncovered from his communications with his then wife, mother-of-two, Amal El-Wahabi, 36, who was left in north London living on benefits.
He then enrolled her in a scheme to send her cash by tricking her friend Nawal Masaad, 36, into acting as a courier with the promise of €1,000.
Masaad, from Holloway, north London, was detained at Heathrow Airport on January 16, 2014 as she was about to board a flight to Istanbul with €20,000 stuffed inside her tights.
Prosecutors alleged that the money, raised in the United Kingdom, was intended to support Davis’s terrorist cause in Syria.
Following El-Wahabi’s arrest in London, police discovered a cache of terrorist propaganda that Davis allegedly left behind when he went to Syria.
On his mobile phone was a photograph sent by Davis in November 2013 in a Syrian forest with a man holding a Kalashnikov rifle.
Davis told his wife, “Don’t show this to anyone but Yuyu. (sic). I’m serious.”
He sent another photo posing with 13 other people wearing military-style clothing and holding weapons.
When El-Wahabi asked him if he was doing anything exciting, Davis said he was just “on point,” believed to be a reference to guard duty.
The court heard it was clear Davis, who had convictions for drug possession and weapons possession, had gone to Syria to fight under the black flag of IS and was concerned about martyrdom.
Following the Old Bailey trial in 2014, El-Wahabi became the first person found guilty of financing terrorism in Syria and jailed for 28 months, while Masaad was cleared of any wrongdoing.
In November 2015, Davis was arrested along with others in Istanbul after being found using a falsified travel document and later imprisoned for belonging to ISIS.
Following his return to the UK, Davis pleaded guilty to terrorism offenses at the Old Bailey after Mr Justice Lucraft and the Court of Appeal rejected a final attempt to dismiss the case.
The Court of Appeal rejected a claim by Davis’s defense attorney that he could not be tried twice for the same offence, considering the offenses were different.
A claim that British authorities “conspired” with their Turkish counterparts in a failed attempt by then Home Secretary Priti Patel to arrange his subsequent extradition to the United States, where the other two IS Beatles were tried, was also rejected.
Davis’ lawyer, Mark Summers KC, had stated that lawyers in the United States were not seeking to prosecute Davis “because the evidence was that there were only three members and not four members of that cell.”
The Court of Appeal ruling stated that there was “a complete lack of evidence of misconduct on the part of the then Home Secretary and relevant UK officials”.
The senior judges added that the plan to prosecute Davis in the United States was “irrelevant to his alleged unlawful deportation” and any discussion of it was “no more than a footnote in the story of the applicant’s return to the United Kingdom.” .
Nick Price, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Davis left the UK and traveled to Syria to become involved with a banned terrorist organisation.
”While in Syria, he was able to use a partner or a network of like-minded people to organize and give his wife 20,000 euros, which were to be brought into the country.
“It is only fair that he was convicted and imprisoned in this country.”