A 25-year-old man from Merrylands in Sydney has been sentenced for a minimum of two years and six months for travelling to Syria with the intention to fight president Bashar al-Assad’s regime with a group of rebels.
Mehmet Biber (also known as Abu Abdul Malik) was today sentenced at Parramatta’s Supreme Court to a maximum four years and nine months in prison, with a non-parole period of two years and six months for entering Syria with the intention of engaging in armed hostilities.
Court documents reveal Biber said he was driven by reports of civilian casualties of the Syrian war, and frequently posted graphic images on his Facebook page. Police later also found violent images on his phone.
He was part of a group of four men from Sydney who wanted to go Syria to fight, and was aided by known terrorist recruiter Hamdi Alqudsi.
Biber flew to Syria alone in 2013. His family expressed major concern over his motivation to fight.
Biber’s father and uncle even went to the Sydney office of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the AFP and the Turkish Consulate in Sydney to try and stop him from getting to Syria. His father “wanted to save him from being killed or ending up in serious trouble”.
Upon arriving in Syria, Biber said he spent much of his time at a rural guest house far from conflict where he kicked a soccer ball with children and grew “extremely” bored, and didn’t actually even end up fighting at all. He also expressed plans to bring his pregnant wife to Syria as part of a “hijrah” or religious pilgrimage.
She did travel to be with him, but returned to Australia without Biber to have the baby.
Biber was sent back to Australia in 2014, after the birth of his baby, after being found in Turkey with an expired visa.
He was arrested during anti-terror raids at one of the men’s homes in Revesby in south-west Sydney.
One of the pieces of evidence that brought Biber undone was a photograph of him and nine other men that was found in the second bedroom of the home. They were dressed in black, and carrying assault weapons in front of a truck that was flying a flag used by insurgent Islamic forces in Syria in 2013.
He had previously said to the group that “[the photo] would ruin all of us”.
He expressed regret at the sentencing, saying “the actual intentions I had – I don’t regret my intentions that I had for the good of the civilian that I wanted to help, that was the intentions I had. I do definitely regret the path I took and the actions, the decisions that I made.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that it was the first time the foreign incursion offence had been prosecuted in Australia.
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