A British Muslim en-route to Syria was allowed to fly from Gatwick to Turkey after he told police officers that he was planning to meet up with girls he had been chatting to on Match.com, it has emerged.
The man was picked up by Turkish border forces just three days after his arrival in Istanbul and was returned to the UK, where he has been charged with attempting to travel to Syria to commit acts of terrorism, contrary to Section 5 of the Terrorism Act, the Daily Mail has reported.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard last week that the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was questioned by officers for ten minutes under the Terrorism Act as he prepared to board a flight from Gatwick to Turkey.
But they let him go after he convinced them that he was meeting up with girls he had been chatting to on the dating website Match.com. He allegedly claimed that he had booked a hotel in Istanbul for five nights for that purpose.
In fact, he only stayed at the hotel for one night before boarding a domestic flight to Gaziantep airport, the closest Turkish airport to the Syrian border.
Turkish officials picked him up at the Oncupinar border, returning him to the UK via Heathrow where he was arrested – five days after leaving the country.
According to court documents: “When questioned, he informed the officer that Istanbul was his final destination and he was travelling there to meet women he had met through the website Match.com.
“Match.com confirmed that the account, which was in his name, was opened on December 28, 2014, and the account was last visited that day.
“He did not pay a subscription fee so he would not have been able to contact anybody directly.
“Match.com has also confirmed that they do not offer their services in Turkey.
“After questioning was concluded, he was allowed to board the flight.”
The man, in his twenties, refused to leave his cell to appear in front of the magistrates citing religious reasons. He did not apply for bail and the case has been transferred to the Old Bailey. If found guilty, he faces up to a lifetime in prison.
Approximately 850 British Muslims have travelled to Syria to join the jihad, according to British officials. At least 67 have been killed fighting in the region, but half have returned to the UK.