A British mother who tipped off police that her son had traveled to Syria to fight with an Al Qaeda-linked group now says she feels betrayed after her son was sentenced to 12 years in prison Friday.
British media reported that Majida Sarwar alerted police when she discovered a note last year from her son, 22-year-old Yusuf Sarwar, saying he had traveled to Syria with a friend for the purpose of “jihad.”
"As soon as I found out about the letter, I went to the police and cooperated, but the police have betrayed me and misused me,” she told the BBC after her son and his friend were sentenced. "If I had known they would put my son behind bars, I would not have told them about the letter."
“My husband just sits silently most of the time, crying a lot,” Sarwar said, according to the Guardian. She said her son did a “stupid thing” and, after realizing it, decided to come home.
The British newspaper the Telegraph reported that Sarwar was convicted after pleading guilty to terrorism charges.
When Sarwar returned to the U.K. with his friend Mohammed Nahin Ahmed after eight months in Syria, police at London’s Heathrow Airport found traces of military-grade explosives on their clothing and digital photos showing the two aiming automatic weapons.
According to the Guardian, his parents thought he was on a university trip to Turkey.
The mother characterized the prison sentence as “harsh” and warned it would discourage other families from tipping off police if they suspect relatives are planning to travel to Syria.
"Nobody's going to hand their son in, knowing that they're going to be behind bars,” Sarwar said, according to the Telegraph.
In the note, Sarwar wrote that he was traveling in order to fight “jihad” with a group called Kataib al Muhajireen, which was later renamed Kateeba al-Kawthar, and said he hoped to "die as a martyr,” the Telegraph reported in July.
The Telegraph reported that when police searched Sarwar’s computer they found phrases including “Syria rape, Syria muhajideen, jihad, turkey weapon shop, AK47, al-Nusrah, AQ training.”
Sarwar’s letter also reportedly included this warning to his parents: “Make sure you do not get any authorities involved. It is a kufaar (unbelievers) government.”
When he sentenced the two on Friday, Judge Michael Topolski, said they were "deeply committed to violent extremism."
The Daily Mail reported that the judge noted the two had kept a disk with instructions on building IEDs. Though he said he couldn’t be sure they planned to engage in terrorism on British soil, the judge said the disk was “deeply disturbing.”
He also praised the mother for her “extraordinarily brave conduct.”
Mrs. Sarwar said her son wasn’t religious but before traveling bought the books "Islam for Dummies" and "The Koran for Dummies," the Guardian reported.
She insisted her son’s trip was to help the Free Syria Army, which she emphasized was in line with British policy.
“When the Queen’s son went to Afghanistan to fight he was patted on the back. Our sons are going out for a cause that the British government also supports, they support the rebels fighting in Syria, he is sent to jail for 12 years,” she told the Guardian.
The Telegraph quoted Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire who said, "This case clearly demonstrates the government's clear message that people who commit, plan and support acts of terror abroad will face justice when they come back to the U.K.”