A Londoner of Cypriot origin and his wife have been sentenced to six years and three months in Turkey after they were convicted on terrorism charges.
Stefan Aristidou, aged 23, had landed at Larnaca International Airport in 2015 but a week later he went missing. He resurfaced two years later with his 22-year-old wife Kolsoma Begum on the Turkish border, in April 2017, after arriving from territory controlled by ISIS.
The couple was detained in the Turkish town of Kilis along the Syrian border, just over 40 miles from Aleppo. They abandoned their lives in the UK to resettle in Raqqa, a stronghold of the Islamic State.
Aristidou denied all terrorism allegations, insisting he went to Syria to live under Sharia law. But officials believe Aristidou went to Syria to fight and the couple had decided to return to the UK when ISIS came under pressure.
“At the end of the day, I am just trying to get my life back,” Aristidou told a British news network in a telephone interview last year.
The convicted terrorist grew up in Enfield in a middle-class environment where he lived with his mother and sister, while his father also lived in London, according to reports. Neighbors had noticed Aristidou wearing Islamic clothing prior to his trip to Cyprus, while they said the family was initially “quiet” about his disappearance.
Begum, who did not appear in court but was represented by a lawyer, reportedly wanted to return home to the UK. Her father reportedly had warned the couple they should have to face justice for what they have done.
The maximum sentence was 15 years behind bars, with a Turkish judge handing down six years and three months for the couple. Aristidou maintained that ISIS core members were forceful with hesitant fighters and gave them no other options.
Kary Kleman from Florida in the US also got a similar sentence. He had moved his family from Dubai to war-torn Syria back in 2015.
Another jihadist of Cypriot origin, Alexanda Amon Kotey, who was captured by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), is accused of taking part in beheadings of western hostages.
Kotey and fellow jihadist El Shafee Elsheikh were known as the last two of the “Beatles of ISIS” squad, and could face the death penalty if a US government request is granted to transfer the duo to Guantanamo Bay. They are currently among prisoners held by Kurdish forces in northern Syria. [Kathimerini Cyprus]