Parents who sent ISIS son money spared jail in Britain

Mr John Letts and his wife, Ms Sally Lane, have been convicted of funding terrorism by sending their son, Jack Letts, money after he left home to join ISIS in Syria.
Mr John Letts and his wife, Ms Sally Lane, have been convicted of funding terrorism by sending their son, Jack Letts, money after he left home to join ISIS in Syria. PHOTO: DPA

LONDON • The parents of a British Muslim convert dubbed "Jihadi Jack" have been spared jail after being convicted of funding terrorism by sending him money after he joined the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group.

Organic farmer John Letts, 58, and former charity fundraiser Sally Lane, 56, tried to send £1,723 (S$3,000) to their son, despite multiple police warnings not to.

Prosecutor Alison Morgan said they had "turned a blind eye to the obvious": that their teenage son had joined ISIS in Syria.

Jurors at the Old Bailey in London, England's central criminal court, found the couple guilty of one count of funding terrorism in September 2015. They were sentenced on Friday to 15 months in jail, but the sentence was suspended for 12 months.

"It was one thing for parents to be optimistic about their children," said judge Nicholas Hilliard. "But in this context you did lose sight of realities."

A Canadian dual national through his father, Jack Letts left home aged 18 in May 2014, and embarked on what his parents saw as a "grand adventure" to learn Arabic in Jordan.

PARENTS' DEFENCE

We have been convicted for doing what any parent would do if they thought that their child's life was in danger... No one during our trial even suggested that the £223 that we actually managed to send to Jack was in fact used for terrorism.

JOHN LETTS AND SALLY LANE, in a statement read by their lawyer outside court. They are the parents of British Muslim convert Jack Letts, who said he had left ISIS.

 
 
 

A friend had warned of Jack's growing extremism and urged the parents to confiscate his passport.

From Jordan, he moved to Kuwait and got married in Iraq before travelling to Syria.

The parents, in a statement read by their lawyer outside court, said: "We have been convicted for doing what any parent would do if they thought that their child's life was in danger.

"No one during our trial even suggested that the £223 that we actually managed to send to Jack was in fact used for terrorism.

"Having escaped from ISIS, he is in limbo. If there is evidence he has committed a crime then he should be tried."

Now 23, Jack Letts has spent the last two years in a prison in Kurdish-held Rojava, northern Syria.

In an interview with ITV in February, released after court proceedings concluded, Letts said: "I didn't come with the intention to join ISIS but... you get taken by the current. I don't expect sympathy."

He also said he had left ISIS.

"The British population is going to see me as a terrorist, and what comes to me whether it's in Britain or outside of Britain, everyone's sort of going to be pleased with it," Letts said.

He added: "I was an idiot."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 23, 2019, with the headline 'Parents who sent ISIS son money spared jail in Britain'. Print Edition | Subscribe