Jihadi Jack parents funded terrorism

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-48676894

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Media captionJohn Letts and Sally Lane’s solicitor Tayab Ali reads their statement: “We tried to do the right thing”

The parents of a Muslim convert dubbed “Jihadi Jack” have been found guilty of funding terrorism.

John Letts, 58, and Sally Lane, 57, from Oxford, sent their son £223 while he was in Syria despite concerns he had joined the Islamic State group.

An Old Bailey jury found the couple not guilty of sending him a further £1,000 and could not reach a verdict on a third charge of funding terrorism.

The pair each received 15 months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.

In a statement read by their solicitor, they said: “We have been convicted for doing what any parent would do if they thought that their child’s life was in danger.”

Muslim convert Jack Letts left his home in Oxford at 18 for Jordan and Kuwait for study and tourism.

In March 2015, police warned the couple they risked prosecution if they sent their son money.

Then in September, Lane transferred money to an account in Lebanon after her son insisted it had “nothing to do with jihad”.

She told him: “I would go to prison for you if I thought it gave you a better chance of actually reaching your 25th birthday.”

Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC said: “It was one thing for parents to be optimistic about their children, and I do acknowledge he is your son who you love very much.

“But in this context you did lose sight of realities.”

He told the couple: “The warning signs were there for you to see.”

He said that they were “intelligent adults” who set aside their suspicions to “please your son”.

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Media captionSpeaking to the BBC’s Quentin Sommerville, Jack Letts said he had been an “enemy of Britain”

In the statement read outside the Old Bailey, the couple said: “The fact the jury acquitted us of some of the allegations makes it clear that the jury accepted we believed that our son’s life was in imminent danger.”

They added that they had “tried to do the right thing” and co-operate with police in a bid to get Jack home.

“But instead of helping us they used the information we provided to prosecute us.”

In the statement, Letts and Lane said that “having escaped from Isis [Jack] is now in limbo”.

Jack has been detained for the past 18 months 1by the Kurdish-led YPG in northern Syria.

His parents said: “Jack is still a British citizen and we have pleaded with the government to help us to bring him to safety, even if that meant he might be prosecuted in the UK.

“We are committed to help Jack return home.”

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John Letts and Sally Lane were found guilty of sending their son £223 while he was in Syria, despite concerns he had joined Islamic State

Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC had earlier said Jack’s parents “turned a blind eye to the obvious”.

“Saying they wanted to help Jack is not a defence,” she said.

“They had every reason to expect the worst; they just in fact did not want to hear the truth.”

She added Letts and Lane were repeatedly told by “numerous police officers” not to send any money.

Letts and Lane were found not guilty of sending a further £1,000 in December 2015 and the jury could not reach a verdict on the couple sending £500 in January 2016.

Jurors heard that in July 2015 Jack Letts spoke about wanting to decapitate a former school friend on social media.

‘Not bad people’

Linus Doubtfire posted a picture on Facebook as he completed his Commando Artillery Course in the British army.

Jack then posted: “I would love to perform a martyrdom operation in this scene.”

During the trial the court heard the parents consulted an academic expert, who said it was “highly improbable” Jack had not engaged in military activity.

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Jack Letts was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” after he travelled to Syria in 2014

Jurors also heard Lane sent a message to her son which said it was “naive of us to believe” Jack was not a fighter in Syria.

Det Ch Supt Kath Barnes said investigators had “huge empathy” for Letts and Lane, and said the parents were “not bad people”.

She added: “It’s hard to imagine the kind of agony they must be going through because of the choices their son made.”

Letts and Lane criticised the government for their lack of action in helping Jack, and others, return to the UK from Syria.

In their statement they said: “After more than two years in jail, Jack still faces indefinite detention without being charged or tried for any crime.

“Effectively there is no government policy for British citizens, including children, trapped in Syria.”

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson said: “As long-standing FCO travel advice states, HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] does not have a consular presence in Syria from which to provide consular support.”

The spokesperson added that anyone who chose to travel to Syria was “putting themselves in considerable danger”.