Chesterfield chip shop owner denies ‘unhealthy interest in Islamic State’ during terror trial

A Chesterfield man accused of preparing acts of terrorism has denied developing an ‘unhealthy’ interest in Islamic State after spending time with the Sheffield man alleged to be his partner in crime.

Wednesday, 3rd July 2019, 6:13 pm
Police outside the Mermaid Fish Bar, which used to be owned by Andy Star, last year.
Police outside the Mermaid Fish Bar, which used to be owned by Andy Star, last year.

Farhad Salah, aged 24, of Brunswick Road, Burngreave, and Andy Star, aged 32, of Sheffield Road, Chesterfield, are both on trial at Sheffield Crown Court, accused of preparing to commit acts of terrorism.

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The two defendants were arrested by counter-terrorism police at their respective homes during raids carried out on December 17, 2017

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During his cross-examination today, prosecutor Anne Whyte QC put it to Star that in the months leading up to his arrest, his ‘mindset had changed’ and he had developed an ‘unhealthy’ interest in Islamic State (IS).

Ms Whyte referred to evidence given by three witnesses during the course of the trial, one of whom is a former colleague, who noticed he had become a more ‘devout’ Muslim and had also stopped drinking.

She suggested the changes in Star’s behaviour ‘coincided’ with the period in which he began to spend time with Salah.

Star replied: “No, I have never expressed radical mind[set], never.”

He also denied becoming more devout and giving up alcohol.

“Are you worried that if you admit to becoming more devout, people will think you are an extremist,” asked Ms Whyte.

He responded: “I wasn’t even religious, I was smoking, drinking, having girlfriends – all things you can’t do as a Muslim.”

Salah and Star, both of whom are originally from Iraq, first went on trial in October last year, but the jury was discharged after failing to reach a verdict.

Their second trial began at the beginning of last month.

Ms Whyte asked Star why he did not tell the jury in the first trial about a number of incidents he claims were carried out by IS that affected him personally, such as his friend and sister being ‘blown up’ by the terrorist organisation, but has felt the need to relay them to the jury in this trial.

“I did not need to talk about other things in the last trial, I’m not going to go through 1996 to 2019,” said Star.

Ms Whyte said Star was not telling the jury of eight men and four women ‘the truth,’ and suggested he had embellished in such a way in order to give the impression he was ‘culturally’ opposed to IS.

“I’ve told the truth last year, and this year,” replied Star.

The jury were referred to some text Star had stored on the Notes section of his iPhone 6 which read: “You know America went to Iraq, looted oil and murdered millions of people and destroyed the country, and while leaving created ISIS to create this situation.”

When asked about the passage, Star said he had not written it but had saved it on his phone.

Ms Whyte said Star told the jury in the last trial that he had saved the passage so he could use it when attempting to make a stand against far-right groups such as the EDL (English Defence League) and Put Britain First, but had not mentioned this to the jury in this trial.

She suggested the reason he had not mentioned it to this jury was because he had time in the intervening period between the two trials to come up with a ‘better’ excuse.

Star denied lying.

Ms Whyte said Star, who ran the Mermaid Fish Bar in Chesterfield, had even lied about when his birthday was.

She said Star told the jury his birthday was on December 14, but said his ex-girlfriend had described how he told her his birthday was on December 24.

When Star’s home was raided officers found gunpowder, also known as black powder, a number of partially-constructed explosive devices, fuses, and chemicals such as potassium nitrate and nitrocellulose, which is also known as gun cotton.

Star told the jury he had been fascinated by fireworks since 1992, and had made his own while living in Iraq.

He said he had begun to make fireworks again, which is why he was in possession of the chemicals found at his property, and believed it was legal in the United Kingdom to use up to 100 grams of black powder, when making your own fireworks. Star said he had been ‘experimenting’ with different mixtures, after some of the fireworks he had made had failed to make it into the air.

Star’s barrister, Simon Kealey QC, asked him: “Did you ever make anything with the intention of making a bomb or anything that could harm someone?”

“No of course not, everything was related to fireworks,” replied Star.

Referring to the morning of his arrest, Mr Kealey asked Star what he did next after seeing armed police approach his home.

Star said: “I didn’t know what to do, I hid the phone in the loft because I had done some IS research and rocket research.”

He had previously told the jury that he had previously carried out research on IS because he was concerned about how the terrorist organisation’s actions may be affecting members of his family in Kurdistan.

Mr Kealey added: “Did you think you had done anything wrong?”

Star replied: “No, like I said, I didn’t know what to do.”

Salah and Star each deny one count of preparing an act of terrorism.

The trial, which is expected to conclude next week, continues.