Suspects stonewall at major German attack plot trial

24th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

The defendants in one of Germany's biggest trials of accused terrorists in decades -- three Germans and a Turkish national -- refused offers to address the court in this western city on the second day of their trial.

Duesseldorf -- Four suspected Islamic militants accused of plotting bombings against US citizens in Germany on the scale of the 9/11 attacks stonewalled Thursday as their trial continued here.

The defendants in one of Germany's biggest trials of accused terrorists in decades -- three Germans and a Turkish national -- refused offers to address the court in this western city on the second day of their trial.

The Turkish suspect, 30-year-old Adem Yilmaz, was ordered into special confinement for a week for contempt of court after he refused to rise when the judges entered the courtroom for the second day in a row.

"I only stand for Allah," he had told the presiding judge, Ottmar Breidling, on the opening day of the trial before the Duesseldorf state security tribunal.

"This is provocative behaviour showing disrespect for the court," Breidling said Thursday, as Yilmaz sat behind bulletproof glass with the other defendants, smiling and stroking his beard.

"Thank you very much," Yilmaz shouted. "Thank you very much."

The four men face charges of belonging to a terrorist organisation and conspiring to mount a series of devastating bombings in German cities aimed at US citizens. They could face 15 years in prison if convicted.

Sites on their target list included the US airbase at Ramstein and civilian airports as well as nightclubs, bars and restaurants frequented by Americans in cities such as Frankfurt, Duesseldorf, Cologne and Stuttgart, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors say the four are hardened members of the Islamic Jihad Union, an extremist group with roots in Uzbekistan and ties to Al-Qaeda which is believed to have set up militant training camps along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

The men had planned bombings between early September 2007, when they were captured, and mid-October 2007, when the German parliament was to vote to extend participation in the NATO peacekeeping force in Afghanistan.

After months of surveillance, police using US and German intelligence said they caught three of the suspects red-handed, mixing chemicals to make the equivalent of 410 kilogrammes (900 pounds) of explosives -- 100 times the amount used in the 2005 London bombings that killed more than 50 people.

The fourth suspect, Attila Selek, a 24-year-old German citizen of Turkish origin, was extradited from Turkey last November.

Two of the suspects, Fritz Gelowicz and Daniel Schneider, are German converts to Islam.

The cases of Gelowicz, 29, and Schneider, 23, have particularly shaken the country, raising questions how seemingly "normal" Germans could convert to a radical brand of Islam and plan attacks on their home soil.

Germany, which opposed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq but has around 3,700 troops in Afghanistan under NATO command, has beefed up security and surveillance in response to the threat of militant attacks.

AFP/Expatica

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