UK

Poppy plot accused 'hated UK foreign policy'

Court drawing / courtroom sketch: Haseeb Hamayoon, Nadir Syed, Yousef Sayed at Woolwich Crown Court Image copyright Julia Quenzler
Image caption Yousaf Syed, pictured right, told the court he was not a follower of the Islamic State group

A man accused of preparing a terror act around last year's Remembrance Day has told his trial the poppy represents his hatred of British foreign policy.

Yousaf Syed, 20, said he understood the sacrifice of soldiers in two world wars, but today all he could see was Iraq and Afghanistan's destruction.

He blamed Tony Blair for the rise of the self-styled Islamic State (IS).

Mr Syed, of High Wycombe, is one of three men who deny preparing for acts of terrorism.

His cousin Nadir Syed and another man, Haseeb Hamayoon, both of west London, also deny the charge.

Prosecutors say the men had bought knives after being inspired by IS to carry out an attack similar to the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby. They were arrested days before last year's Remembrance Sunday.

The defendants accept they shared graphic and offensive material online but say there was no plan to kill anyone - nor would they wish to.

'Poppy stamping'

Giving evidence at Woolwich Crown Court, Mr Syed said he was not a follower of IS and a trip to Turkey in early 2014 had been a cultural holiday, including an opportunity to see the Prophet Muhammad's slippers.

Paul Hynes QC, defending, asked him to explain why he had been filmed laughing with his cousin as they stamped on a Royal British Legion poppy.

"It represents British foreign policy that has destroyed two countries, Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.

"It does represent World War One and World War Two and Muslims fought in those wars - but today I see Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The poppy represented British foreign policy at the time of Tony Blair, who at the time was the most hated PM in Britain."

"It represents your hatred of British foreign policy?" asked Mr Hynes.

"That's correct."

'Destroyed the country'

Mr Syed said he had "no hard feelings" for soldiers who had died in the world wars.

And then he added: "Iraq specifically, they died in an invasion that should not have happened - the individuals [were] just doing their job.

"The person responsible was Tony Blair. Destroyed the country and created Islamic State."

My Hynes asked Mr Syed what he thought about Lee Rigby's 2013 murder and his client replied that the killers had been theologically ignorant.

He denied that some of his online discussions about the killing had demonstrated sympathy and support for the killers.

The trial continues.

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