August 13, 2014
A woman accused of trying to smuggle 20,000 euros (£15,800) in her underwear to a Briton fighting in Syria has been found not guilty of funding terrorism. Nawal Msaad, 27, from north London, was stopped at Heathrow Airport as she prepared to board a flight to Istanbul, Turkey, on 16 January. Amal El-Wahabi, 27, who was accused of trying to get her to smuggle the money, was found guilty of funding terrorism. Prosecutors said El-Wahabi’s husband had joined rebels fighting in Syria. Ms Msaad, who was a first year student at London Metropolitan University at the time of her arrest, had denied being an Islamist extremist, saying she had been duped by El-Wahabi.
El-Wahabi began screaming after her conviction, forcing Judge Nicholas Hilliard to clear the court. She is due to be sentenced on 12 September and faces a maximum of 14 years in prison. She is the first Briton to be convicted under terror laws of funding jihadist fighters in Syria.
In many terrorism cases, prosecutors often present evidence of an extremist mind-set gleaned by police from forensic examinations of mobile phones and computers. In Ms Msaad’s case, her Facebook profile was focused on socialising with friends at parties and festivals. In one Twitter picture she had given her electronic bail tag a designer touch by attaching a Chanel logo. After her release from prison on bail in March, she published on YouTube a cover version of a Jennifer Lopez song, protesting that she was the “same girl” who’d been let down by fake friends. She also posted a statement on Facebook denying the allegations, saying: “At no point did I try to conceal the money from the police, I volunteered the amount of money I was taking. I can’t help but wonder if I had been called Natalie from Surrey whether the authorities would have presented terrorism charges against me.”