Syria accused; Derry man to be released on bail

Eamon Bradley. Picture by  Press Eye.
Eamon Bradley. Picture by Press Eye.

A Derry man accused of receiving weapons and explosives training in Syria is to be released on bail, a High Court judge ruled today.

Eamon Bradley has spent more than three months in custody amid claims that he took part in battles against Islamic State and Assad forces.

But Mr Justice Burgess granted bail after defence lawyers described the 25-year-old as a “dreamer” who poses no danger to the public.

Bradley, of Melmore Gardens in Derry, is to live with his grandmother and must not access the internet or use any mobile phones.

He was arrested last November amid media reports that he had allegedly been fighting in the Syrian civil war.

Charges of receiving training in weapons and explosives, and possessing a grenade with intent to endanger life were brought under the new extra territorial enabling legislation.

It is the first time such a prosecution has been taken against a terror suspect returning to Northern Ireland from the region.

Pictures of him with heavy-caliber ammunition, apparently in a Middle Eastern country, were said to have been found on his mother’s mobile phone.

Another image of him in combat gear had been transferred onto a wall-mounted canvas print.

But Bradley, who said he converted to the Muslim faith six years ago, claimed he travelled to the region to help those being subjected to atrocities.

He told police that he took part in three battles against Islamic State and Assad forces.

He also alleged that he spent months at a training camp run by opposition grouping Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam), but never used a weapon in combat.

According to his account he decided to quit and return home due to disillusionment at the chaotic tribal arrangements and his inability to speak Arabic.

During a protracted application for bail prosecutors said an academic expert on Middle Eastern Issues and Irabic identity has assessed Jaysh al-Islam as being an extreme organisation separate from the Free Syrian Army.

Such groups provide training in suicide bombings as well as weapons and mortar attacks, it was claimed.

Previously the court heard how telephone calls during a three-month period from March to May appeared to have been to contacts with Arabic names.

But Mr Justice Burgess was then told any cell-site analysis to track Bradley’s movements in the region is impossible.

Examination of computer hard-drives seized from the family home also yielded nothing to strengthen the prosecution case.

According to Joe Brolly, defending, the academic’s suggestion that Jaysh al-Islam was aligned to Islamic State (ISIS) went against “the analysis of the rest of the world”.

The barrister also contended that British Prime Minister David Cameron is among those who have declared ISIS must be destroyed.

Turning to his own client’s situation, Mr Brolly said: “He’s clearly not a danger to anyone. He appears to have been a dreamer, someone not particularly realistic.”

No evidence has been produced to contradict Bradley’s explanation for why he went to the region, his counsel insisted.

He added: “The added element in this is there’s been a touch of media... I wouldn’t say hysteria, but frivolity around this young man.”

Granting bail, Mr Justice Burgess pointed out that the authorities have been given time to carry out their investigations.

With just the academic report left to be submitted next month, he ruled that Bradley could be released on conditions imposed to ensure public safety.

As well as banning any internet or mobile phone use, the judge ordered that two family members must act as sureties for the accused.