Freed Arabs seek asylum in Germany
30 January 2004
BERLIN – A number of freed Hezbollah militia members asked Germany authorities for political asylum and did not board a plane to Beirut, according to a broadcast report.
At least three or four Palestinians are understood to have taken advantage of their stopover at a Cologne airfield to announced they had no intentions of flying back to Lebanon, said the report on ARD television.
Reports from Beirut earlier had said 21 Lebanese nationals arrived at Beirut airport although initially 23 Lebanese were released under the exchange. Two decided not to travel to Beirut.
Lebanese national Fadi Oulyan stayed in Germany, and the other went to the West Bank. Both men had criminal charges against them in Lebanon. Along with the Lebanese there were five Syrians, three Moroccans, three Sudanese, and one Libyan on board the plane.
In Germany, ARD also reported that Steven Smyrek, a 32-year-old German who was involved in the exchange of prisoners between Israel and Hezbollah also decided to remain in the country of his birth.
Tight-lipped throughout the German-mediated prisoner swap, the government in Berlin neither confirmed nor denied the TV report.
Smyrna, a native German from Braunschweig, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Tel Aviv in 1999 for participation in an attempted terrorist bombing.
Two years prior to that, this young man from Braunschweig, Germany, was arrested in the Israeli capital. In his luggage were sensitive maps and a camera.
Under interrogation, he admitted he had been working for Hezbollah to scout out potential bombing targets. It was a confession he later retracted.
Smyrek is said to have made contacts with Hezbollah in the 1990s when he began regularly attending worship services at a mosque in Braunschweig following his conversion to Islam.
He soon became a Hezbollah courier, rousing the attention of intelligence agencies throughout Europe as well as Israel’s Mossad.
Prosecutors in Germany also investigated him for a time, but dropped the case against Smyrek after Israel convicted him.
On Thursday he flew from Israel to Germany, and then announced he would not be transferring to a plane to fly to Beirut. Instead, he was expected to be reunited with his family in Braunschweig, ARD reported.
Subject: German news