Sunderland engineer on terror charges claims he downloaded bombmaking manual for scientific research
A civil engineer accused of posting ISIS videos on his Facebook page has told a court he downloaded a bomb-making manual "for scientific research".
Abdulrahman Alcharbati made 110 references to martyrdom and the proscribed terrorist organisation on his open social media profile and, in the space of one day last February, posted links to six videos.
The married dad, originally from Syria, had a copy of a manual titled “Easy Explosives 4th Edition” on how to make improvised explosive devices, specifically suicide bomb vests, downloaded onto his mobile phone.
The 31-year-old took to the stand today to give evidence, and told the jury at Newcastle Crown Court how he became interested in the war in Syria after his older brother was killed in 2015 by a terrorist group.
He said: "I recall a phone call from my family telling me my brother had passed away, they said during the war. One of the terrorist factions in Syria killed him.
"He recently moved to Syria just before the war. It affected me so much. I went into a depression phase and until now I didn't get over it."
Alcharbati told the court he found out the news when his wife was seven months' pregnant and chose to stay with her while she gave birth in the UK instead of travelling to Syria for the funeral.
He said: "I'm still not over it. I'm still thinking about it all the time. I can't let it go."
When asked by his barrister Bunty Bantra if he had always had an interest in politics in the Middle East, Alcharbati replied: "Not as much until the war in Syria."
Alcharbati, of Noble Street, Sunderland, told the court how he is bipolar and has had a number of “episodes” over the years which have “ruined” his life.
He said the episodes, which occur when he does not take his medication, make him “manic”.
He told the court he was deported from the United Arab Emirates back to Syria in 2010 after he drove his car into a Sheikh's house during one of his episodes.
On another occasion in 2013, while studying a masters in engineering management at Sunderland University, Alcharbati said he was sectioned after being picked up by police after deciding he needed to go to America, and travelling to Newcastle Airport.
Alcharbati said: "I'm just manic, I'm not myself. I destroy everything around me, I'm not responding to anything.
"I go against the law and I don't respect anything, I don't respect any laws."
When asked about the large number of posts on his Facebook account he said: "I was copy and pasting everything. Anything I found on the internet about news about discussions.
"Sometimes I don't read it, I just copy and paste it. If someone makes a comment I might go back to it and see what the post is about."
When asked by Mr Bantra about some of the ISIS videos he posted on his profile, Alcharbati said: "I wasn't thinking, I wasn't really thinking.
"I was up all night going through a manic episode I was just downloading and posting things.
"I was thinking 'this is the news and this is what's happening in Syria. This is the news and this is my people'.
"I was sharing stuff like an internet junkie and sharing what I can."
When asked if he supported ISIS he said: "I weren't supporting, no rational human being would support their actions, what they're doing.
"I'm telling you I'm not supporting them. All I was doing was attracting some attention from friends and followers to discuss what's happening."
Alcharbati told the court how he stopped taking his medication around October 2016 and did not take it again until he was arrested at his home in Noble Street, Sunderland, last May.
He told the jury how he had been working for the firm Capita as a site engineer for two months between August and October 2016 until he was fired for raising his voice and shouting.
Alcharbati said he did not recall downloading the explosives manual, but that it may have been for scientific research.
When Mr Batra asked Alcharbati if he had looked at the manual or shared it he replied 'no sir' to both questions.
Alcharbati said he may have downloaded it, as he is a civil engineer and is interested in the topic.
He said: "I may have downloaded it for the purpose of scientific research.
"I would be interested in such material sir from the scientific point of view sir."
Mr Batra told the court how Alcharbati chose to answer all the police questions in interview when he had the right to remain silent.
Alcharbati said: "Because I have nothing to hide I'm ready to answer any questions the authorities want sir."
When asked why he didn't request a solicitor while being interviewed by police he said: "I didn't feel the need for me for a solicitor because I thought myself I didn't do anything wrong, I wasn't doing anything wrong.
"I thought I would be asked some questions about the Facebook account and they would release me."
Alcharbati told the court how he shouted "I'm going to bomb the UK and I'm going to kill everyone" while locked in a police cell in Bradford as he was "going into a manic episode again".
He said: "I remember saying that and yelling all the time, yelling at the police officers and the police guards, everyone at the police station."
Alcharbati told prosecutor Dan Pawson-Pounds during cross-examination that he sees himself as the 'chosen one'.
He said: "When there is a problem in the world I see it as an assignment for me to solve it.
"I see myself as the chosen one, the one supposed to solve these problems."
Mr Pawson-Pounds asked Alcharbati if he was hiding behind his mental illness, to which he responded: "No sir."
Alcharbati denies six offences of dissemination of a terrorist publication and one of possessing a document containing terrorist information and is being tried by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court.
He denies all charges. The trial continues.