Iraqi Kurd denies being terrorist to German court
31 May 2005, MUNICH - An Iraqi Kurd denied on Tuesday at the start of a major terrorism trial in Germany that he was a member of the feared Islamist group Ansar al-Islam, but conceded he was a people smuggler.
31 May 2005
MUNICH - An Iraqi Kurd denied on Tuesday at the start of a major terrorism trial in Germany that he was a member of the feared Islamist group Ansar al-Islam, but conceded he was a people smuggler.
Lokman M., 31, is alleged to have helped radical Kurdish Muslims travel to Iraq to mount terror attacks on behalf of Ansar al-Islam as well as smuggling wounded fighters into Europe for medical care.
Prosecutors said he was valued by Ansar al-Islam because he was a member of a professional group of human traffickers.
Conceding that he moved people in defiance of migration rules, M. told the Bavarian State Superior Court: "I helped people who had suffered under the old regime of Saddam Hussein. I did not work for Ansar al-Islam."
The trial resumed under tight security six weeks after it had adjourned because lawyers needed more time to read files.
Federal prosecutors claimed he was a local fundraiser and head of Ansar al-Islam's Munich cell. But M. told the court he had been a member of the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan and had always rejected bids by rival groups to recruit him.
He said he had sent small amounts of money illegally to Iraq. They had been intended to help people who had been impoverished by United Nations sanctions against Iraq, adding, "There was no way at that time to transfer the aid to my people officially."
Ansar al-Islam is the most feared Islamist group in northern Iraq. Norway plans to deport Mullah Krekar, believed to be its main spiritual leader, back to Iraq next year. The United States regards Ansar al-Islam as an ally to the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
Prosecutor Ulrich Boeter told the court investigations showed M. had been "an active helper" to the terrorist network.
Among his 20 clients had been a seriously injured Ansar ordnance expert who had both hands blown off while handling a landmine and was smuggled into Britain for medical treatment.
M. had personally escorted the man after arrival in Italy in full knowledge of his importance to the Islamists, according to the prosecution.
The indictment says that by November 2002 at the latest M. had become a fully fledged member of Ansar's international network, which recruited Islamists to go to Iraq and fight. The Munich cell also sent the terrorists funding and technical equipment.
M. is the first person to be put on trial under amended German legislation that makes it a crime to join a foreign terror group. Previously it was only a crime to be in a German-based terrorist cell.
The trial had to be adjourned within an hour of starting on 19 April with both sides saying they had not been shown evidence gathered in a separate investigation of the suspect by Stuttgart prosecutors till the last minute and needed more time to study the documents.
Federal prosecutors have since taken over the case to ensure there is no more muddle among state-level authorities.
The principal charge is that M. is a member of an international terror group. The indictment states he has provided financial support from Germany for Ansar al-Islam as well as logistical work including six instances of people-smuggling on behalf of the terrorists.
Germany passed a new law after the 11 September 2001 terror attacks under which membership in a foreign terrorist group is a punishable act.
The Munich court has scheduled 30 hearing days for the case up to 12 August and is expected to hear 40 witnesses including six persons in Italian and Swedish jails who are to testify by live video hook- up.
The main prosecution witness has disappeared, presiding judge Bernd von Heintschel-Heinegg told the court. A subpoena sent to him had come back marked 'address unknown'.
Lawyers Nicole Hinz and Rolf Grabow representing M. said the court must decide if paramilitary activities in the course of a war within a country should be considered 'terrorism'.
"The defence asks the court and the federal prosecutors to consider that this prosecution is on the borderline between traditional criminal law and pure foreign policy", they said in submissions.
The case against M. was also partly based on intelligence documents where sources could not be checked.
"In the war of the United States and its allies against the Saddam Hussein regime, they also quoted 'sources' and alleged Iraq had nuclear weapons or nuclear-capable material," they said. "Today we know that this was to be doubted."
Subject: German news