'We Wanted To Take A Cool Photo': Foreign Fighter Facing Up To 20 Years Jail
Mehmet Biber admitted to having sympathy for the ISIS regime, but insists his views have changed.
What you need to know
- Mehmet Biber says he wasn't a fighter, but dressed in the clothing of Islamic State to take a 'cool' picture.
- He was arrested in 2016 and was charged in relation to his trip to Syria.
- Biber now faces 20 years in prison for wanting to engage in hostile activity in a foreign country.
When he boarded a plane bound for Syria in July 2013, Sydney courier Mehmet Biber says he only wanted to be an aid worker; helping victims of a savage war being waged by President Bashar al-Assad on his own people.
“My wife was pregnant at the time, and seeing images of women and children being pulled out of the rubble, that hit me in the heart," he told the NSW Supreme Court on Friday.
But images of Biber, holding a gun, dressed in black and camouflage paint - according to the Crown - a very different picture.
“You were in fact a fighter, weren’t you?” asked David Staehli SC.
“No, we grabbed the guns from our guards, I grabbed a vest off the guards. For the photo,” explained Biber.
“We wanted to take a cool photo."
The 25-year-old today faced a sentencing hearing, after pleading guilty to one charge of entering a foreign state with the intention of engaging in a hostile activity under the Foreign Incursions and Recruitment Act.
He was arrested in a dramatic vehicle stop by heavily armed police in the Sydney suburb of Birrong in November 2016, and charged over his trip to Syria two and a half years earlier.
'A flavour of Jihad'
While in custody, police searched his phone, finding images and documents which the Crown says “had a flavour of Jihad”, including some depicting a beheading.
Biber claims the images came from his WhatsApp account, which he’d used to monitor news reports and information about the Syrian conflict.
“Whatever’s been sent on there automatically saves to you phone”, he said.
Biber spent close to three months in Syria, travelling there via Turkey with the help of now-jailed ISIS travel agent Hamdi Alqudsi and Mohammad Ali Baryalei, who was later killed in battle.
Biber joined an insurgent group Al Sham, but claims he became hot and bored in Syria, because he wasn’t able to do any aid work, and other members of the group wouldn’t let him near the conflict zone.
“I never went near the front lines," he said.
The outfits he was photographed wearing in Syria, he said, were either borrowed or made by local tailors, because the clothing available in Syrian shops was “bodgy”.
Justice Adamson described it as “a pretty elaborate dress-up box” but said while Biber’s evidence was “implausible” it did not mean it was untrue.
Biber eventually returned home after meeting up with his parents and pregnant wife in Turkey.
He admitted having sympathy for ISIS following the death of his “best mate” who was fighting for the terrorist group, but claims his views changed before he was arrested.
"Are you an ISIS supporter now?”, Mr Staehli asked him.
“No, I’m not”, he replied
Biber faces up to 20 years jail when he is sentenced, but has already spent 18 months behind bars at Goulburn’s Supermax jail.