Islamic State’s de facto leader in
A German court sentenced 37-year-old Iraqi Ahmad Abdulaziz Abdullah Abdullah, better known as Abu Walaa, who was accused of directing a jihadist network radicalising young people in Europe and helping them travel to
He was found guilty on Wednesday of belonging to a foreign terrorist organisation, helping to plan subversive violent acts and financing terrorism, with judges convinced that Walaa’s network was sending young people to
The conviction marked the end of an ‘special case’ which was ‘very long and very complex’, judge Frank Rosenow said as he handed down the verdict after 245 days of hearings.
A German court sentenced 37-year-old Iraqi Abu Walaa (pictured covering his face in court on Wednesday), who was accused of directing a jihadist network in the country radicalising young people in Europe and helping them travel to Iraq and Syria
Abu Walaa was in the dock with three other men in a costly, high-security trial that began in 2017 in the northern German town of Celle.
His three co-defendants were handed sentences ranging from four to eight years for supporting IS.
Prosecutors had sought a prison sentence of eleven and a half years for Abu Walaa, while the defence had argued for an acquittal and criticised key witness testimonies.
Abu Walaa arrived in Germany as an asylum seeker in 2001, and was arrested in November 2016 after a long investigation by Germany’s security services.
Based in a mosque in the northern city of Hildesheim, he is alleged to have recruited at least eight jihadists – most of them ‘very young’ – to IS, including a pair of German twin brothers who committed a bloody suicide attack in Iraq in 2015.
Dubbed the ‘preacher without a face’ for his online videos in which he always appeared with his back to the camera, he is also alleged to have preached jihad at the now-closed Hildesheim mosque.
He is said to have been the mosque’s imam and leader of the now-banned association of ‘German-speaking Islamic District Hildesheim’, and organised ‘Islam seminars’ at mosques elsewhere in Germany.
Pictured: Abu Walaa, who was found guilty on Wednesday of belonging to a foreign terrorist organisation, helping to plan subversive violent acts and financing terrorism, with judges convinced that Walaa’s network was sending young people to ISIS combat areas
Pictured: Iraqi defendant Abu Walaa, described as the Islamic State group’s de facto leader in Germany, knocks on a glass pane as he arrives at court for the verdict of his trial on February 24, 2021 in Celle, central Germany. He was sentenced to ten years and six months in prison
Among those who Abu Walaa allegedly helped radicalise was at least one of three teenagers who were convicted of a 2016 bomb attack on a Sikh temple in Essen, western Germany.
Another terrorist with possible links to Abu Walaa was Anis Amri, the Tunisian who killed 12 people when he drove a truck into a Berlin Christmas market in 2016.
Amri was allegedly in contact with Abu Walaa’s co-defendant Boban Simeonovic, who is believed to have put the Tunisian asylum seeker up in his flat in Dortmund.
Simeonovic was sentenced to eight years in prison on Wednesday.
Amri, who was killed by police in Italy while fleeing police, also attended a Berlin mosque known for its links to jihadism at which Abu Walaa occasionally preached.
A direct link between Amri and Abu Walaa remains unproven.
The charge against the Iraqi preacher is largely based on the testimony of a security service informant who spent months collecting evidence.
The informant was exempted from testifying in person before the court over fears that it would put his life in danger.
Pictured: Representative of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office Holger Schneider-Glockzin reads behind a glass pane in the court prior the trial of Iraqi defendant Abu Walaa
Pictured: hmad Abdulaziz Abdullah A., also known as “Abu Walaa”, arrives in a police car for what is expected to be a verdict in his marathon, four-year trial on terror charges at the Oberlandesgericht Celle courthouse on February 24, 2021 in Celle
Another key informer was a disillusioned jihadist who agreed to cooperate after returning to Germany from IS-controlled territory, and told investigators how he had been part of Abu Walaa’s network before travelling to Syria.
Yet Abu Walaa’s lawyer Peter Krieger insisted that these testimonies were untrustworthy, telling the court that the key witness was a ‘notorious liar’.
While German authorities now see far-right terrorism as the primary danger to domestic security, the threat of Islamist extremism remains.
Two weeks ago, three Syrian brothers were arrested in Denmark and Germany on suspicion of planning bomb attacks.
According to the interior ministry, German security forces have prevented 17 such attacks since 2009, the majority since a spate of successful attacks in 2016.
Authorities believe there are 615 potentially dangerous Islamists currently living in Germany, five times as many as in 2013.
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