A former bus driver accused of training would-be terrorists wanted to live like a monk, a court heard today.

Kibley Da Costa, 24 of Bentons Lane, West Norwood, is accused of helping self-styled "Osama Bin London" Mohammed Hamid prepare Muslim men for Jihad at terrorist training camps.

But Da Costa's supposed extremism was likened to the beliefs of Christian monks by his barrister Paul Keleher at Woolwich Crown Court.

Mr Keleher told jurors observant Muslims have the same values that monks and nuns espouse - finding God through physical struggle and hardship.

The Crown's case against his client is based on a misunderstanding of the Islamic concept of Jihad or struggle and a misunderstanding of Muslim values, he added.

"If nothing in your life has equipped you to understand the experiences of people from other religions or other faiths you are liable like the prosecution to jump to the wrong conclusion," he said.

"Our Christian monks were engaged in Jihad when they fasted or wore hair shirts.

"They weren't suicide bombers. They weren't extremists. It was just part of their religion, and if we understand a bit more about our religious heritage Islam does not seem so alien."

He added "the awareness of death in everyday life" was also an Islamic value, and when the defendants are recorded talking about death they are not encouraging each other to "seek violent death".

Da Costa's beliefs place him in a "difficult middle ground" between Islamic fundamentalists and secular Muslims, said Mr Keleher.

He said the defendant's commitment to leading an Islamic lifestyle meant they were "radical but not extreme".

Mr Keleher said Da Costa was not a close associate of Hamid or Atilla Ahmet, who has admitted calling for the murder of non-Muslims. The barrister said Da Costa did not take Atilla Ahmet seriously.

Da Costa is standing trial with Hamid, 50 of Clapton, Mousa Brown, 41 of Walthamstow, Mohammed Al Figari, 42 of Tottenham, and Kader Ahmed, 20 of Plaistow.

He denies providing training for terrorism, possession of a record likely to be useful to a terrorist and two counts of attendance at a place used for terrorist training.

The trial continues.