Waheed Ali: Denies conspiring with bombers
A man accused of a scouting trip for the 7 July 2005 suicide bombers has admitted he went to the Afghan frontline to train for jihad.
Leeds man Waheed Ali said he trained with bomber Mohammad Siddique Khan in 2001 but was not part of his plot.
The pair spent months in Kashmir and Afghanistan believing it was their duty to fight alongside oppressed Muslims.
Mr Ali and two others deny conspiring with their close friends who led the attacks on the London transport system.
Appearing in the witness box at Kingston Crown Court, Mr Ali told the jury that he knew nothing of plans to attack London - and that the bombers had distanced themselves from him.
"Did you take part in any terrorist planning in London," asked his counsel, Michael Wolkind QC.
"No, I swear I did not," replied Mr Ali.
"Did you take part in any reconnaissance trip for this plan to bomb the Underground?"
"No, I did not."
The 25-year-old said he had become religious in his late teens after a chance conversation with fellow defendant Sadeer Saleem.
Mr Ali took "inspirational" tapes from Mr Saleem of Muslim suffering and watched them with childhood friend Shehzad Tanweer, another of the suicide bombers.
"That's what I saw as my goal in life, to help my Muslim brothers however I could do it," said Mr Ali.
Concluding he needed to act, Mr Ali approached Mohammad Siddique Khan, who also lived nearby, suggesting the pair should go and train in Kashmir.
Thanks to Khan's mujahideen contacts, the pair left for Pakistan in July 2001 and joined others training in the mountains on the Kashmir border.
Mr Ali told the court the trip had been talked about openly and that people in Beeston collected for the Kashmiri cause at Friday prayers.
"Islamically and morally it's 100% correct to help your Muslim brothers," said Mr Ali.
"I had told my friends about my plans, all these people knew about the trip."
After spending weeks learning how to strip, clean and fire rifles, commanders invited the pair to see Afghanistan.
They went to the Taleban's frontline with the Northern Alliance near Kabul.
Mr Ali told the court he was so ill from the local food that he was of no military use - but the trip had nevertheless been worth it.
"I thought that I had accomplished something and that I had trained to help my Muslim brothers," he told the court.
"The ultimate aim of every Muslim was to have an Islamic state and I had seen it. I was really happy."
Mr Wolkind had earlier told the jury that the prosecution's allegation that Mr Ali had scouted for targets in London December 2004 was "outstandingly weak". He warned the jury against "traps of prejudice" posed by Mr Ali's foreign or offensive views.
Sadeer Saleem and Mohammed Shakil also deny the charge
Mr Ali told the jury he disagreed with attacks against innocent civilians - but in the wake of 9/11 wanted to help liberate Afghanistan from US-led forces.
In November 2004 Khan and Tanweer headed to Pakistan. Mr Ali and another of the defendants were to follow.
The December trip from Leeds to London was not to identify targets, but an opportunity to say goodbye to his sister, Mr Ali told the jury.
"Did you for any reason go near an Underground station?" asked Mr Wolkind.
"No," said Mr Ali. "I never intended to do any reconnaissance or nothing like that. It was just a day out."
When Mr Ali eventually caught up with Mohammad Siddique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer in a camp near Peshawar the plans appeared to have changed.
The pair had received separate training and Khan wanted to return to the UK "to do something for the brothers". Mr Ali said the plans were not spelled out and he felt "dropped like a hot potato".
Mr Wolkind asked what Mr Ali thought was meant by jihad.
"Jihad is a term that means to defend Muslim lands against foreign occupiers and to help your brothers in any way you can," said Mr Ali.
"It's an obligation on every male Muslim - God has commanded us to help our Muslim brothers when they are in need."
What about violence against ordinary people, asked Mr Wolkind.
"No, jihad and terrorism are worlds apart."
The trial continues.