Sydney man jailed for joining IS in Syria
A Sydney man who says he travelled to war-torn Syria to join Islamic State for humanitarian reasons has been sentenced to at least two years and nine months behind bars.
Belal Betka pleaded guilty to engaging in hostile activity in a foreign country but claimed he travelled to Syria with his then-wife for honourable and humanitarian reasons.
During a sentencing hearing in December, Betka said he left after being told he had to fight for IS and because its members were mistreating civilians.
NSW Supreme Court Justice Ian Harrison on Thursday said he believed Betka's account and there was no evidence to suggest he ever held violent extremist views.
Justice Harrison also told the court, sitting in Parramatta, there was no evidence the Algerian Australian was militarily trained or actively fought in battle with Islamic State.
He said Betka's offending was "at the very lowest end of objective seriousness for offences of its kind" and sentenced him to three years and eight months' jail with a non-parole period of two years and nine months.
Betka is currently serving a sentence for an unrelated money laundering offence and will be eligible for release in December 2021.
The 27-year-old was arrested at his Sydney home in December 2017 after police alleged he travelled to Syria between March and July 2015.
He was the first Australian to be charged under foreign fighter laws.