Eleven South African adults and three children have reportedly returned home from ISIS-held territory in Syria. Recent reports suggest these individuals returned after their experience fell short of what they had expected. However, the Muslim Lawyers Association (MLA), representing the eleven individuals say these reports have not been confirmed and suggested this group claimed to have returned from a Syrian humanitarian mission.
The South Africans reached the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Friday and immediately taken into custody of the South African State Security Agency upon questioning.
The MLA’s Yousha Tayoub says he is disappointed at the SSA after they did not allow any legal representation during questioning.
“We as the lawyers representing them are deeply disappointed. We had sent letters to authorities advising of their right to want to remain silent and legal representation which was denied at the airport yesterday. This is something we will be taking up with authorities on Monday,” Tayoub explained.
Tayoub refers to the reports about the said individuals returning from ISIL-held territory as “rumours” at this point.
“When they arrived it was emotional. They are very happy to be home in South Africa and happy with the Department of International Relations and Co operations for facilitating their return. But we were told they went purely to do aid work so I don’t know where these stories are coming from,” Tayoub further explained.
“At this point it is still not clear whether they were in fact in ISIL territories or what activities they engaged in. We will only have more on this later in the week. The individuals are all healthy and happy to be home.”
If the South Africans are found to have been engaging in activities associated with ISIL, Tayoub says they will be tried for terrorism. VOC (Ra’eesah Isaacs)