Duesseldorf: Two Germans and two Turkish men were convicted on Thursday over a foiled 2007 plot to attack US targets in Germany and given prison sentences ranging up to 12 years.
Operating as a German cell of the radical Islamic Jihad Union, the four men had plotted bombing attacks against American citizens and facilities including the US Air Force's Ramstein base in Germany, the Duesseldorf state court found.
The case "has shown with frightening clarity what acts young people who are filled with hatred, blinded and seduced by wrong-headed ideas of jihad are prepared and able to carry out," Judge Ottmar Breidling said.
Three defendants — Fritz Gelowicz and Daniel Schneider, both German converts to Islam, and Turkish citizen Adem Yilmaz — were convicted of membership in a terrorist organization, while Turkish citizen Attila Selek was convicted of supporting a terrorist organisation.
All four also were convicted of preparing explosive devices.
They had confessed during the trial, which began in April, and showed no reaction Thursday as Breidling announced the verdict on Thursday. Gelowicz and Schneider was sentenced to serve 12 years in prison, Yilmaz to serve 11 years and Selek five.
The judge said the planned attack could have been on a par with the 2005 London transport bombings or the 2004 Madrid train bombings.
The defendants' goal was not only to attack Americans — for example at pubs, discos and other public places — but also to influence a German parliamentary vote in October 2007 on extending the country's military deployment in Afghanistan, the court found.
According to the US State Department, the Islamic Jihad Union was responsible for coordinated bombings outside the US and Israeli embassies in July 2004 in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent. Members have been trained in explosives by al Qaeda instructors, and the group has ties to Osama bin Laden and fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar, according to the State Department.
The German cell had stockpiled 1,600 pounds (730 kilograms) of highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide, purchased from a chemical supplier, and could have mixed it with other substances to make explosives equivalent to 1,200 pounds (550 kilograms) of dynamite, German officials say.
But German authorities — acting partly on US intelligence — had been watching them and covertly replaced the hydrogen peroxide with a diluted substitute that could not have been used to produce a bomb.
German authorities arrested Gelowicz, Schneider and Yilmaz at a rented cottage in central Germany on September 4, 2007. Turkey picked up Selek in November 2007 and later extradited him to Germany.
First Published: Thursday, March 04, 2010, 16:43