Derry’s District Judge has refused to grant bail to a Creggan man who appeared at a special sitting of the city’s Magistrate’s Court this morning charged with offences related to his activity in Syria earlier this year.
Barney McElholm told 25 years old Eamon Bradley that he was refusing his bail application with “a degree of reluctance”,
Earlier Mr McElholm said elements of the case against Bradley raised a moral debate which he was not prepared to go into at this time.
Bradley was arrested by police in Derry on Thursday - he had returned from Syria just last week.
Following two days of interviews at the serious crime suite in Antrim, a police detective sergeant told the court that Bradley had told police about his experiences, in varying detail. in Syria over the last nine months.
Out of those interviews Bradley - who said he had trained and fought with Jaysh Al Islam (Army of Islam) - was charged with attending a weapons and explosives training camp in Syria on dates unknown between April 1 and October 28 of this year.
He was further charged with possession of a grenade in Syria with the intention of endangering life or causing damage to Syrian property.
The court heard how Bradley, who converted to the Muslim religion five years ago, had travelled to Turkey in January of this year after becoming aware of the conflict in Syria because he wanted to help the people of the country.
He told police he had made contact with people, who he did not identify, online who had advised him on how best to gain entry to the war torn country.
After spending two months at the Turkish/ Syrian border, Bradley told police he crossed with others illegally into Syria by wading through a river.
Once there he told police he spent two months at the Jaysh Al Islam training camp where he was trained in the use of AK47s, various other firearms and heavy artillery such as mortars.
Bradley told police he took part in the training knowing that he would be fighting against the Ba’ath Regime and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
He told police he had fought in three battles, as part of a small group of 20 or so fighters, where he had been armed with an AK47 and a grenade but said he had not used either.
Bradley told police he had left Syria because he had become disillusioned - and he had used a false passport to leave the country.
Objecting to bail, the police officer said there was a fear that Bradley would abscond, that he could return to Syria and reoffend, that he use his training on behalf of known or unknown Islamic terror groups or domestic terrorists in the UK or nearby jurisdictions or that he could carry out a deliberate act of terror in same.
A legal representative for Bradley described him as a man who cared deeply for the people of Syria. He said there was no evidence that he had ever been involved with any domestic terrorist organisations and that he had never been in trouble with the police.
“His only intention was to help the Muslim population,” the barrister said. “He genuinely does not believe he has done anything wrong.”
District Judge Barney McElholm said while he did not want to get into the politics of the situation, there was “no doubt the regime in Syria has committed gross atrocities and human rights violations” and that it would difficult for the state to argue in support of ISIL.
The police officer replied that Bradley had not be charged in relation to fighting against any organisation or regime but on the basis of training in weapons use and possessing weapons.
He added: “You do not just walk away from Syria scot-free. You do not just take part in battles and leave with a fake passport - not unless A) You have a purpose or B)You are on a break, and that you back to indoctrinate others before returning.”
Bradley was remanded in custody to appear again at Derry Magistrate’s Court on December 4, via videolink.