UK jihadi gets 17-year jail sentence

The bodybuilder appeared in gruesome videos posted online for Islamic State's propagandist arm. Picture: PA
The bodybuilder appeared in gruesome videos posted online for Islamic State's propagandist arm. Picture: PA
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A BRITISH jihadi nicknamed “Barbie” – who fled a Syrian training camp because he had “had enough” of conditions there – was handed a 17-year­ extended sentence yesterday.

Imran Khawaja, 27, complained of a lack of toilet paper, toiletries, cocoa butter and condoms during his six-month stint with the Rayat al-Tawheed (RAT) insurgents in wartorn Syria last year.

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The bodybuilder appeared in gruesome videos posted online for Islamic State’s propagandist arm, including posing with severed heads and dead fighters.

He initially resisted his ­family’s pleas for him to return to the UK.

But in June, Khawaja, of Southall, Middlesex, sneaked back home after telling friends he needed to raise further funds to support the RAT cause. He was able to do so after falsely spreading word of his death online.

Khawaja was stopped by port officials at Dover while trying to regain entry to the UK with his older cousin, Tahir Bhatti, who had been sent to rescue him.

Jailing Khawaja at Woolwich Crown Court, Judge Jeremy Baker handed him a 17-year term for the most serious offence. It will comprise a 12-year custodial term before he is released on licence. He will serve a minimum of eight years.

The judge said Khawaja was a “willing and enthusiastic” participant in recruitment films, and dismissed his claim he came home to see his family and regretted his actions. He said Khawaja was a risk to the public.

Judge Baker said: “It is clear in the last few years you have been showing an increasing interest in Islamic jihadist material. I’m also satisfied, by the time you decided to return to the UK, you had completed your terrorist training.”

Khawaja showed no emotion as he was led from court.

He pleaded guilty to preparation of acts of terror – the most serious offence, for which he was given the 17-year term. He was also handed seven-year terms for attending a terrorist training camp and for weapons training, and 11 years for possessing an article for terrorist purposes. All sentences will run concurrently.

His counsel, Henry Blaxland, QC, told the court his client had a very low IQ and had been “indoctrinated” in the months before he fled to Syria, in January 2014. At one stage, Khawaja’s sister Azmeena threatened to travel to Syria to fetch him home. Instead, Khawaja sent her ­pictures of his time in Syria with RAT.

In one section of footage, played before a hushed court, Mr Altman said Khawaja could be seen picking up severed heads from the back of a flatbed truck and saying: “Heads. Kuffar [non-Muslims]. Disgusting.”

Away from fellow RAT members, Khawaja complained about conditions. He told friend Asil Ali he needed toiletries – as well as toilet roll – while in Syria. The court heard Mr Ali had sent a message to a friend saying Khawaja “needs cocoa butter, toothpaste, soap and condoms for the war booty”.

In a note to the judge, ­Khawaja said he had “nightmares” about his time in Syria and urged “the young men of Britain” not to “make the same mistake” he had.