If a friend tasked you with bringing €20,000 ($27,240) from London to Turkey for her husband, who is currently fighting with jihadists in Syria, how would you do it?
For Nawal Msaad, a 27-year-old human resources student at London Metropolitan University, the logical answer was to use her undergarments.
— adnan hobalah (@adnanhobalah) July 8, 2014
In January authorities stopped Msaad at London Heathrow airport, where she was about to board a flight to Istanbul, the Old Bailey heard Tuesday. Prosecutor Mark Dennis QC told jurors that Msaad pulled from her underwear a roll of banknotes, including some money that had been wrapped in a condom and placed inside her body.
Any sum over $5,000 must be declared going into Turkey, and anything more than €10,000 must be declared on U.K. flights, so Msaad claimed she was going to Istanbul to buy gold her mother with 20,000 euro “around me.” Counter-terrorism officers subsequently brought her in for questioning.
Prosecutors told the court that Msaad’s close friend Amal El-Wahabi asked her to transport the money, which was intended for El-Wahabi’s husband, Aine Davis, in Syria.
Msaad was used "as a trusted courier, collecting and carrying the large sum of money, concealing it on the journey and then ensuring that the money was handed to the correct person at the end of the journey for the purposes for which it had been smuggled,” Dennis said.
El-Wahabi and Msaad are the first two British women to be prosecuted for their involvement in the Syrian civil war. The two are accused of funding terrorism, a charge that the both deny.
On March 3, Msaad posted a plea of innocence to her Facebook page. “The police's suspicions have been based on the circumstance and anyone out there who knows me will know I do not have any extremist views or support terrorism nor do I have any jihadist affiliations,” she wrote. “I've received a lot of attention from different people who think I've done something whether for good or bad and I'd just like to make clear that this is unwanted and I've never been a politically active person. I hate terrorism, I am a British Muslim and they make religion not look peaceful.”
While Msaad claims she has no terrorism ties, El-Wahabi's husband does not. Davis left for Syria last year and prosecutors confirmed through Whatsapp messages that he is, in fact, fighting with a jihadist group. According to the prosecutor, Davis "fulfilled his desire and was now with jihadist fighters and was supporting the familiar black flag adopted by the extremist jihadist terrorist groups.”
Counter terrorism officers found extremist material in El-Wahabi’s house, including videos featuring Osama bin Laden and speeches by radical clerics on an iPod.
If there was any doubt that El-Wahabi knew what her husband was doing in Syria, a series of Whatsapp messages from him crushed it. According to Dennis, he sent her a series of pictures of himself posing with guns alongside other armed rebels and a video of a boy between the ages of 10 and 13 holding a Kalashnikov rifle in a "promotion of the jihadist cause.”
Msaad’s case is just one of the many involving young Britons attempting to get to Syria. The head of Counter Terrorism Command, Richard Walton, told Al Arabiya News that 14 arrests were made in the first three weeks of January.
“We’ve had a number of teenagers, both from London and nationally, who’ve been attempting to go to Syria,” Walton said.
Msaad and El-Wahabi’s trial is ongoing.