Terror accused denies buying sword for attack

Sahayb Abu, of Dagenham, is on trial at the Old Bailey.

Sahayb Abu, of Dagenham, is on trial at the Old Bailey. - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

An aspiring rapper has denied buying an 18-inch sword for a terror attack, saying he had only wanted to be "famous".

Sahayb Abu, 27, who lives in Dagenham, admitted buying the sword, a knife, a combat vest, balaclavas and gloves before his arrest on July 9 last year. But he denied it was in preparation for a terror strike.

Jurors have heard how he donned a balaclava and hat in homemade videos he sent to his brother Muhamed Abu, 32, who is accused of failing to disclose his activities.

He is also alleged to have discussed guns with an undercover police officer he met through an Islamic State supporters' Telegram chat group.

On Tuesday, February 23, Sahayb Abu went into the witness box at the Old Bailey to give evidence. Asked by his lawyer if he bought the items with the intention of committing acts of terrorism, he said: "Of course not."

He told jurors how he grew up in Ilford listening to grime artists such as Notorious BIG. "I was more into music and grime. Everyone else was talking about rap and the latest tunes. It was the culture I grew up in."

Mr Abu told jurors: "I just wanted to be a musician, a rapper, famous. I wanted to be famous instead of just books."

He took the nickname of French after he ran away from home in 2009 and lived in France for three and a half years, he said.

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On his return to Britain, he reconnected with his brothers at a snooker club in a "chance meeting - like God planned it".

He was asked about his relationship with his younger half-brothers Wail and Suleyman Aweys, who are believed to have died in Syria.

At the time they left Britain in 2015, Mr Abu said he was a "depressed alcoholic" and a gambler.

His half-brothers were more religious, he said: "I knew they were way more practising than me. I was not practising at all."

Asked about his reaction to finding out they had gone to Syria, he said: "I was really shocked."

Their departure left a "gaping hole" and led to gossip about the family, the court heard.

He said: "It went down as a stain and embarrassment. It became a reason for people to gossip and slander our family name."

By contrast, the defendant said he worked stacking shelves in Poundstretcher before getting a job for Network Rail in 2016. He was working on the railways in early 2017 when he heard news that his half-brothers were dead.

He said: "My understanding is that Wail died in an air strike and Suleyman been shot in the head."

In June 2018, the defendant was convicted of a commercial burglary, the court heard. He served his sentence at Wandsworth and High Down jails, alongside terrorism and non-terrorism inmates, he said.

The prison community would mingle and included various "rappers from the ends", he said.

Jurors were told the defendant was released from prison on March 20 last year, less than four months before his arrest.

He has denies preparation of terrorist acts. Muhamed Abu, from Norwood, south London, has pleaded not guilty to failing to disclose information about acts of terrorism.

The trial continues.