Irfan Naseer 'pretended to be a terrorist to impress'

By Dominic Casciani
Home affairs correspondent at Woolwich Crown Court

Image caption,
Irfan Naseer (left), Irfan Khalid and Ashik Ali have denied terrorism charges

A Birmingham man accused of plotting suicide bombings in the UK has told his trial he pretended to be a terrorist to make himself look big.

Irfan Naseer said he posed as a trained plotter with al-Qaeda contacts after he was faced with rumours in his local community that he was a Pakistani spy.

Mr Naseer and two other men are accused of preparing for terrorism attacks bigger than the 2005 London bombings.

All three deny engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts.

Giving evidence at Woolwich Crown Court, Mr Naseer said it had all been bragging, prompted by sectarian tensions in Birmingham's Muslim communities.

The prosecution alleges 31-year-old Mr Naseer, Irfan Khalid and Ashik Ali, both 27, all of whom are from Birmingham, planned in 2011 to recruit suicide bombers for a series of attacks against the UK.

The jury has already heard Mr Naseer and Mr Khalid allegedly travelled to Pakistan to receive terrorism training and, before their return, left behind martyrdom videos to be released by their trainers after their attacks had been completed.

Once back in the UK in the summer of 2011, they allegedly asked Mr Ali to provide a "safe house" from where they could begin putting their plan together.

Throughout the trial, the jury has heard extensive secret recordings of the men and seen details of funds they raised by posing as charity workers.

But in the witness box, Mr Naseer said he had never received terrorism training in Pakistan and he was not an al-Qaeda plotter. His fund-raising had been genuine, he said.

'Spreading rumours'

Mr Naseer told the jury he came up with the idea of posing as a trained terrorist because of local rumours, put about by a more conservative sect, that he was an agent working for Pakistan's ISI security service.

He told the jury: "They were spreading these rumours in Birmingham [about me]. They started spreading rumours of ISI links and started spreading rumours that I'm ISI."

Jon Whitfield QC, defending, asked Mr Naseer why he repeatedly featured on secret recordings talking to one of his co-accused about ideas for terrorism and bombings.

Mr Naseer, in a barely audible voice, replied that it was "bragging". He went on: "[I told him] I've done training in bombs and basically I've got contacts with the Taliban and al-Qaeda."

A partially burnt note found by detectives, which detailed a method to make a bomb, was also part of the act, he said.

Mr Naseer said he had made two trips to Pakistan between 2009 and 2011 and had spent some time in a harsh religious school, before being expelled. The rest of the time had been spent visiting family. He denied he had received terrorism training or indoctrination at jihadist camps.

Mr Whitfield referred to the fact that Mr Naseer was very overweight and asked him whether he had spent time "running up and down the mountains with weapons". Naseer replied: "No, I wasn't."

"The Crown say because you couldn't do it they stuck you in the school and taught you how to make bombs," said Mr Whitfield.

Mr Naseer replied: "That isn't true."

The trial continues.