Germany: Terrorist trial opens

Ansar al-Islam is a Kurdish Sunni Islamist group, promoting a radical interpretation of Islam and holy war. At the beginning of the 2003 invasion of Iraq it controlled about a dozen villages and a range of peaks in northern Iraq on the Iranian border. It has used terrorist tactics such as suicide bombers in its conflicts with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and other Kurdish groups.

STUTTGART, GERMANY - Three men went on trial under top security in Germany Tuesday, accused of plotting to assassinate the Iraqi prime minister of the day, Iyad Allawi, during a 2004 visit to Berlin.

Police had tapped their phones and arrested Ata R, 32, Mazen H, 26, and Rafik Y, 31, before they could act, prosecutors said.

The trio, who face trial in Stuttgart - and another two men who went on trial in Munich, also on Tuesday - are all accused of raising funds or recruiting for the Iraqi terrorist organization Ansar al- Islam.

Prosecutors say Ata R was Ansar's leader in Germany. Full names were not provided under German news guidelines protecting privacy.

Defence lawyers at the Stuttgart trial demanded the indictment, which was presented in German and Kurdish, be translated into Arabic too, contending that one of the accused knew hardly any Kurdish.

In the parallel case in Munich, both defendants, who have been in custody for a year, refused to testify apart from identifying themselves. Court officials expect the trial with its jigsaw of evidence amassed by police to last to the end of year or beyond.

A 34-year-old man is charged in Munich with being a member of Ansar al-Islam and a 40-year-old with being a supporter.

In January, an Iraqi national, Lokman M, was jailed for seven years for membership in the same group. He was expected to testify at the Stuttgart trial.

A seventh alleged member of Ansar al-Islam was detained in the transit zone at Frankfurt airport in Germany last week. The news magazine Der Spiegel said Burhan B, 36, an Iraqi, was in the course of leaving Europe permanently, bound for Jordan. [Esther note: How do they know it would be permanent?]

Der Spiegel said that Germany authorities had been monitoring him since November 2003 after tapping a phone conversation between him and Ata R. Prosecutors declined to comment on that report.

Source: Expatica (English)

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