A Derry man took part in three battles against Islamic State and Assad forces after travelling to Syria as a “matter of conscience”, the High Court heard yesterday.
Eamon Bradley, 25, also claimed he spent months at a training camp run by opposition groupings but never used a weapon in combat.
Police were told he eventually decided to quit the Middle East and come home due to disillusionment at the chaotic tribal arrangements and his inability to speak Arabic.
Bradley, of Melmore Gardens in the city, is accused of possessing a grenade with intent to endanger life and receiving weapons and explosives training in Syria.
The charges, the first of their kind against a terror suspect returning to Northern Ireland from the region, were brought under the new extra territorial enabling legislation.
Bail was refused so that police can continue to examine computers and hard-drives seized from his home.
Bradley, who flew back into Dublin on October 31, was arrested last week following media reports that he had allegedly been fighting in the civil war in Syria.
Prosecutors told the court pictures of him with heavy-calibre ammunition, apparently taken in a Middle Eastern country, were found on his mother’s mobile phone.
The accused was said to have converted to the Muslim faith six years ago and since then became increasingly aware of atrocities in Syria.
During police questioning he claimed that he decided to travel to the region to help the people there.
The court was told he spent two months in a Syrian training camp under the control of a group known as the Army of Islam.
He was taught in the use of AK47 assault rifles, mortars and other weapons, it was alleged.
Bradley claimed to have taken part in three battles in Syrian cities: one in Idlib, another at Hama and a third in Aleppo.
Two of the engagements were against the Assad regime and the other against ISIS forces.
Prosecution counsel said he claimed to have been armed with an AK47, ammunition and a grenade but had not used any of the weapons.
“He said he became disillusioned and left the region, and that in order to do so he was facilitated with a Syrian passport in the name of a different male,” she added.
Acknowledging the charges were based on Bradley’s admissions during interview, the barrister contended that the full facts may not have been disclosed.
Opposing bail, she cited the risk of potential reoffending – either in Northern Ireland or by returning to Syria.
“Although he has made admissions, there are grave concerns that he hasn’t given the full picture, and concerns about why he may have been able to extract himself from Syria so apparently easily,” the lawyer submitted.
Joe Brolly, defending, argued that Bradley had gone out to the Middle East to aid and help defend the people of Syria.
“His passionate case is this was a matter of conscience for him to protect people from atrocities,” he stressed.
“There’s no evidence he ever used a weapon.”
The accused only came to police attention after posting pictures on Facebook of him on a horse in the Middle East, the court was told.
Mr Brolly said: “He became known as Eamon of Arabia by the press.”
The barrister also claimed the training camp Bradley attended was probably run by the CIA, estimating that the American government has spent $500m on assisting the resistance efforts.
“Anything he was involved in cannot constitute terrorism, it was acting entirely in accordance with the public expressed position of the western coalition in tandem with Saudi Arabia and four other Middle Eastern governments,” he said.
Refusing bail, however, Mr Justice Burgess said police should be given more time to analyse the mobile phones and computer equipment seized in the investigation.
“It may well be that this applicant is everything that he has said, and has absolutely no intention of aligning himself with some of these other groups,” the judge stated.
“But the public interest dictates that police be afforded the opportunity to carry out their investigations.”
He also confirmed his intention to review progress in their inquiries in two weeks time.