German `jihadist` goes on trial for Islamic State ties

A 20-year-old German alleged jihadist goes on trial Monday on charges of fighting for Islamic State in Syria, in Germany`s first court proceedings involving the militant group.

AFP| Updated: Sep 13, 2014, 09:50 AM IST

Berlin: A 20-year-old German alleged jihadist goes on trial Monday on charges of fighting for Islamic State in Syria, in Germany`s first court proceedings involving the militant group.

The defendant, identified by the court only as Kreshnik B., was arrested last December at Frankfurt airport in western Germany on his way home from Syria.

Prosecutors say he joined the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group fighting to create a "caliphate" straddling Syria and Iraq.

While in Syria, he allegedly underwent weapons training with the jihadists and fought in at least three battles against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad`s troops.

Justice officials say this is the first time a German court will hear a criminal case against an IS suspect, and the trial will open under tight security three days after the government announced a major crackdown on the group`s activities.

The case underlines European fears of the threat posed by hundreds of young Islamic militants returning from Syria and Iraq, where they have gained weapons training and combat experience.

Kreshnik B., who was born in Frankfurt to a family from Kosovo, faces 10 years in prison if convicted by the city`s superior regional court of membership of a foreign terrorist organisation.

A verdict is not expected before mid-November but authorities hope the trial will provide insights into IS activities.Federal prosecutors say that he was driven by his "radical religious convictions" but are unclear about the reasons for his return to Germany. However they say there is no evidence he was planning an attack.

They say the seeds of his radicalism appeared to have been planted in 2011, soon after Kreshnik B. joined a job training centre, where he fell in with a group of Muslim fundamentalists.

Acquaintances say he started skipping classes, insulting his teachers and watching hours of jihadist propaganda online.

Two years later, on July 2, 2013, he boarded a bus with six friends in the southwestern city of Mannheim bound for Istanbul, then headed for the Turkish-Syrian border following a well-trod path.

Once he slipped into Syria, Kreshnik B. and his comrades were taken to a nearby building where they were subjected to harsh interrogation by militiamen fearful of being infiltrated by Western agents.

Weekly magazine Focus reported that, as a warning, the newcomers were shown the decapitated heads of purported spies mounted on spikes.

After passing muster, Kreshnik B. gained admission to a training camp to groom him for combat.

In Internet chats with his sister that were intercepted by investigators, Kreshnik B. recounted his life among the IS fighters, and described paying monthly dues of around 50 euros ($65) to the group.

Living in the northern city of Aleppo, he said he dreamed of becoming a sharp-shooter and dying as a martyr for the cause of establishing a caliphate stretching from Syria to Iraq.

"I`m chillin`, I will fight, I will do my job for Allah," he wrote, expressing envy about a fallen comrade.

In one of his last messages from Syria, Kreshnik B. told his sister, "It`s better if mum doesn`t know I`ve gone to fight."

The trial comes with authorities already jittery that jihadist fighters could bring their battle back to European soil. Authorities estimate around 400 German nationals have travelled to Iraq and Syria to battle on the side of the militants.

In response to the atrocities committed in Iraq, Germany said last month it would break with a post-war taboo to send arms to Iraqi Kurds battling IS jihadist militants.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere announced Friday it had outlawed active support of Islamic State including the recruitment of fighters and social media propaganda.

"We must prevent radical Islamists bringing their jihad to our cities," he said.