A Muslim convert accused of terrorist related offences laughed yesterday when he was asked if he had used his socks to clean mortar bombs.
Andrew Rowe apologised for his outburst and went on to deny the allegation put to him at the Old Bailey where he is on trial. Giving evidence from the witness box, Rowe said he had used his socks as gloves to unload ammunition in Bosnia in 1995.
He had gone there as a volunteer and did not want to get splinters in his hands, he said.
Rowe said he had been injured in a convoy within weeks of arriving and returned to Britain a few months later.
He had then taken up martial arts in London and used the socks in a ball as a training aid, he said.
Explaining why a pyjama cord became attached to it, Rowe said it was to hang the sock ball up so he could kick it.
He said: "I would dangle it and use it to kick."
Rowe (34) from Maida Vale, west London, denies three charges of having items for use in terrorism and one of making a record of a code useful in terrorism.
The sock ball was found in Rowe's luggage in October 2003 as he was about to return to Britain via the Channel Tunnel after a trip to Germany. After it was forensically examined, traces of three explosives used in Russian 82mm mortars were found on it.
The prosecution alleges the sock ball was used as a mortar bung or to clean a mortar launcher.
He is also accused of having at addresses in London and Birmingham a code to communicate in secret with others, and a notebook with details on how to use mortars.
Rowe said he volunteered to go to Bosnia as a driver but was put to work unloading boxes of ammunition.
He was also shown a book about mortars when he said he wanted to do more.
He said: "The boxes were breaking. I did not want to get splinters.
"I tried to buy gloves but could not find any, so I used my socks over my hands."
On his return to Britain he transferred the notes he had made in Bosnia into a blue notebook.
Asked why, he said: "For memorabilia basically - to be a bit of a lad. When I spoke to people, I could look as if I had authority."
Rowe, who went to help fellow Muslims during the war in Bosnia, said the sock ball was in his suit-carrier when he was arrested because he had been using it for training.
He had been to Germany earlier in the year to meet a man about helping with humanitarian aid to Chechnya. The man had given him a code to copy to allow for instructions to be sent in secret.
The term "targets" referred to bordering countries where aid would be taken.
Acetone and H2O2 were explosives, he was told, but he was sure they were not for terrorist purposes.
Rowe said: "I had that surety from working with that man that it would not be of a terrorist nature. They were going to help the Chechens defend themselves in Chechnya."
Rowe converted to Islam at the age of 19 after leading a life of drug taking which led him into selling drugs.
The trial continues.