A Muslim man accused of plotting with the ringleader of a conspiracy to launch suicide attacks upon transatlantic passenger aircraft told a court today he wrote a school essay on joining al-Qa'ida because he "liked to push the boundaries".
Adam Khatib, 22, of Walthamstow, east London is accused of conspiring with Abdulla Ahmed Ali to blow up airliners in a wave of suicide bombings.
Ali was jailed for a minimum of 40 years last month after a jury found him guilty of conspiracy to murder.
Three other men, Assad Sarwar, Tanvir Hussain and Umar Islam, were also convicted of playing key roles in the plot.
Khatib today told a jury at Woolwich Crown Court that he was a "clown" at school, who would sometimes miss lessons to smoke cannabis and play on the computer.
He said: "I was a rebel. Anytime a teacher said this is what you do I would say 'this is how it is done'. I hardly ever did my homework, I pushed the boundaries."
Khatib was asked by his defence counsel Antony Chinn QC why he wrote a school French essay about going to Afghanistan, finding a wife and joining al-Qa'ida signed Adam Osman Bin Laden.
He said: "Like I said, I liked to push the boundaries, it was controversial, it was just an essay."
He added further accusations that he allegedly expressed hatred for Israelis and Americans had been "taken out of context" and related to his dislike of the Bush administration.
Khatib said he had considered himself wholly British, adding "there is no doubt, maybe in Nick Griffin's mind, but not in my mind".
The court heard how he was the second eldest child in his family, with two sisters and a younger brother.
His father came from Mauritius and his mother had mixed British Mauritian parentage.
Khatib said his family was not overtly religious and while he went to the mosque to read the Koran as a youngster, he lost interest as he grew older and would only go to prayers if his friends did.
After leaving school, he worked on a stall at Walthamstow market and Cecil G in Oxford Street, before enjoying a family holiday to Mauritius in early 2004.
Asked directly by Mr Chinn if he took part in anything related to terrorism while abroad, he replied: "No, it was just a holiday."
He told the court he got to know Ali through his friendship with Ali's brother Amar and the pair shared an interest in football.
He said: "He was not really my friend, but we did become friends. We played football in the park."
He said he also helped Ali sell on electronic goods such as laptops and phones.
He told the court the pair went to Pakistan together.
He said: "I have always had an interest in foreign countries, China, Tibet, Cuba. I wanted to go to Pakistan and asked if I could tag along. He said he was going for a few months."
Khatib is on trial with Mohammed Shamin Uddin, 39, and Nabeel Hussain, 25.
Uddin, of Stoke Newington is accused of preparing for terrorism by meeting with Ali in July 2006.
He is also accused of researching the use and purchase of hydrogen peroxide and possessing materials that could be used for terrorism.
Hussain, of Chingford, east London is accused of preparing for terrorism by meeting Ali twice in July 2006.
He is also accused of possessing a will, mobiles phones and a £25,000 loan application for use in terrorism.
All three men deny the offences.