'I didn't go to Syria because I was a Muslim'
A Norwegian on trial for fighting with the banned terror group Isis, has told an Oslo court that he went to Syria out of of anger at the “injustice” of the Assad regime, and that it had “nothing to do with becoming a Muslim”.
Valon Avdyli, 28, who is of Albanian origin, complained that the media had misrepresented the actions and motivations of fighters like himself.
“In the media, I have been portrayed as a barbaric murderer from Bærum,” he said. “I have to explain myself in detail so that people do not believe it's true.”
Avdyli, and his co-accused Djibril Bashir, a Norwegian Somali, are being charged under Norway’s new terror law with having fought with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) group in Syria.
Alongside his younger brother Visar, he has also been charged with trying to send military equipment to their brother Egzon, who was killed in Syria last April.
The trial, which began on Tuesday, marks the first time Norway has invoked a new provision under its criminal law allowing prosecution of any "economic or material support to a terrorist organization," an offence punishable by a maximum of six years in prison.
“I never liked injustice, even before I became Muslim,” Valon Avdylim told the court on Wednesday. “The reason I went to Syria is nothing to do with becoming a Muslim, I went there because I wanted to help people. I saw the injustice that Assad was perpetrating against his civilian population and I wanted to help.”
Djibril Bashir, 30, told the court that he had decided to leave Syria when the various rebel groups involved in Syria’s civil war began fighting each other.
“At the start of 2014, the situation changed,” he said. “There were conflicts between the different rebel groups. It ended with a full-scale war, and I did not want be a part of it,” he said.
He stressed that while he still believed Isis did much that was admirable, he no longer agreed with everything the organization did.
“I’m sure Isis is doing much good, but it's not as if I share their view on all points,” he told the court, refusing to give details on where he differed.
Avdylim and Bashir both claim that once they returned to Norway in early 2014 they separated themselves from Isis.
The prosecutor claims, however, that the two men were in the final stages of preparing a return when they were arrested last spring.