Terror suspect: ‘I was just joking about destroying churches’

Farhad Salah.

A terror suspect told a court he was joking when he said he intended to destroy churches.

Andy Star, 32, the former owner of the Mermaid Fish Bar on Sheffield Road, Chesterfield, and his co-accused Farhad Salah, 23, of Brunswick Road, Sheffield, are on trial at Sheffield Crown Court jointly charged with preparing an act of terrorism in the UK in support of so-called Islamic State (IS).

Andy Star.

The alleged plot is believed to have involved an attack involving a driverless car bomb controlled by a laptop to spare themselves.

Both defendants, who are Iraqi nationals, deny the charge.

Cross-examining Salah on Wednesday, prosecutor Anne White QC said he told a contact he ‘intended to destroy churches’.

Salah told the court: “I said that but it was all just a joke.”

Referring to online posts allegedly made by Salah, Ms White put to him: “You expressed pure IS dogma and it’s yours.”

Former Sheffield barber Salah - who claims his Facebook account was ‘hacked’ by an unknown individual - replied: “I never supported IS ideas.”

He said he never expressed any thoughts about extremism nor did he ever access any articles about extremism.

Ms Whyte said Salah and Star liked ‘pro-IS material’ - including a propaganda video called Flames of War - on Facebook.

“How do you account for that,” she asked Salah.

He responded: “I’ve never liked that, I’m not aware of that.”

Ms Whyte said to Salah: “By late 2017, you were extremely frustrated that you couldn’t get out to Syria to fight and perform jihad for IS.

“Did you want to go and fight for IS, yes or no?”

Salah replied: “No.”

The trial previously heard how Star allegedly used his then fish and chip shop as a 'laboratory' for carrying out different types of explosions.

Ms Whyte said Salah and Star’s friendship ‘developed quite quickly’ and Star visited Salah ‘with prototypes of devices he had been experimenting with’ days before the men were arrested at their separate addresses on December 19 last year.

She put to Salah: “You and he (Star) had acquired a criminal interest in using them for a terrorist purpose.”

Salah responded: “I’ve never had any thoughts of carrying out a crime like that, never ever.”

Star, who claims he had an innocent interest in homemade fireworks, is expected to give evidence on Thursday.

The trial continues.

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