Court acquits Tunisian oftrying to set up al-Qaeda cell

6th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

6 April 2005, BERLIN - A Berlin court sentenced Ihsan Garnaoui, 34, a Tunisian Islamist, to three years and nine months imprisonment on Wednesday, but acquitted him of trying to set up an al-Qaeda terrorist cell in the city.

6 April 2005

BERLIN - A Berlin court sentenced Ihsan Garnaoui, 34, a Tunisian Islamist, to three years and nine months imprisonment on Wednesday, but acquitted him of trying to set up an al-Qaeda terrorist cell in the city.

Instead he was convicted of illegal possession of weapons and tax evasion.

The Berlin state court judge Frank-Michael Libera said Garnaoui was no harmless man. He had moved back to Germany from Afghanistan with the intention of using violence for the jihad (holy war) and of staging a bomb attack.

But under the laws of evidence, this did not suffice to prove he had actually tried to set up a freelance terrorist cell in the city or laid the groundwork for terrorist bomb attacks. The presiding judge said he was obliged to acquit if there was any doubt.

At the end of the year-long trial, federal prosecutors had demanded a full conviction and a six-year prison term, saying Garnaoui was planning to bomb both Jewish and US facilities in the country when he was arrested in March 2003.

Garnaoui, who did insurgency training in one of al-Qaeda's former camps in Afghanistan and met Osama bin Laden, returned to Germany without a valid visa and tried to recruit friends at Berlin's al-Nur Mosque for a new terrorist group that he would lead, prosecutors say.

But the German secret services, who rate Islamists as the highest priority threat since the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, were keeping a close eye on the mosque, which had a reputation for militancy.

Some of the evidence against Garnaoui was given by undercover informants whose identities were concealed in court.

The defence lawyers said the claims were hearsay and not proven, and the judges made plain they had not been convinced.

The tax evasion charges related to Garnaoui's income from trading in jewellery.

The Berlin case was one of several before the German courts involving radicals from the country's large Moslem community.

In Hamburg, a Moroccan student, Mounir al-Motassadeq, was convicted of membership of the terror cell that staged the 9-11 attacks, but won an appeal and is free on bail during his retrial.

DPA

Subject: German news

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