Murder accused denies deep interest in ISIS
An alleged murderer who was in Syria when aid volunteer Alan Henning was kidnapped has denied he had a "deep interest" in terror group IS at the time.
Mohammed Hussain Syeedy, 21, travelled in a convoy to Syria from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, in December 2013, shortly after his elder brother left with taxi driver Mr Henning on a similar mission from the town .
Following his arrest for the murder of imam Jalal Uddin, 71, in February, police found a large volume of alleged IS-related material on his phone and other devices.
Among images discovered were those of the defendant and his associates, including older brother Abdul Mannan Al-Asad, raising index figure salutes - said to show allegiance to the so-called Islamic State.
Syeedy has told a jury at Manchester Crown Court the gestures were simply a symbol of Islam and a testament to his faith, and had nothing to do with IS.
Also on his phone was a video of the aid convoy to Syria which featured extremist hymns and chants in the background, say the prosecution.
The Crown say Syeedy is an IS sympathiser who helped his friend, Mohammed Kadir, 24, to bludgeon to death Mr Uddin because they considered he was practising black magic in Rochdale's Bangladeshi community.
Syeedy says he was "disgusted" that IS murdered 47-year-old Mr Henning, who he said he met at various charity events, and that Mr Henning and his brother were "really close".
Cross-examining the defendant, Paul Greaney QC said: "Alan Henning was kidnapped on December 26 2013. You were in Syria when that happened?"
Syeedy said: "I think I was, yes."
Mr Greaney went on: "He was beheaded at some stage before October 3 2014 - that was the date the video of his murder was put on the internet. While in Syria, did you know he had been kidnapped?
Syeedy said: "I think I did hear about him being kidnapped when we came back. I am not 100% sure."
Mr Greaney said: "Can you not remember when you discovered it, this is someone you know?
"I am not 100% sure," he replied.
He said he was part of a Human Aid convoy which stayed in the war-torn country for "two or three days" near the Turkish border and arrived shortly after the Al Fatiha-organised convoy of Mr Henning, which he said he was not involved with.
Asked if he had encountered IS fighters on the journey, he said he had seen what looked like security guards.
Jurors were shown a photograph of Syeedy and his older brother raising their index fingers in front of a Rochdale 2 Syria poster, in which the Crown say they were wearing patches with Jihadist symbols on their jackets.
Mr Greaney said: "You are expressing your support at the very least for armed struggle?
Syeedy said: "I am not, no. I am posing for a picture."
He added that an alleged IS flag found at his home belonged to his elder brother who would regularly attach it to his car and drive around the streets of Rochdale.
Syeedy says the flag and the patches were also symbols of Islam.
Mr Greaney suggested to the defendant that the many images recovered by the police indicated "for many years you have had a deep interest in Islamic State".
Syeedy replied: "I have not."
The former Manchester United steward and Kadir allegedly developed a hatred of Mr Uddin because he used a form of healing involving amulets, known as taweez, which are said to bring good fortune.
The jury has heard IS disapproves of the practice and believes those who regularly engage in it should be killed.
The prosecution says Syeedy had been radicalised and "perhaps" it happened when he travelled on the Syria convoy.
Kadir, of Chamber Road, Oldham, boarded a flight three days later from Manchester to Copenhagen in Denmark followed by a connecting flight to Istanbul.
His whereabouts are unknown although it is thought he could have travelled to Syria.
Syeedy, of Ramsay Street, Rochdale, denies murder.