Germany tries first 'ISIL jihadist'

Germany tries first 'ISIL jihadist'

FRANKFURT - Agence France-Presse
Germany tries first ISIL jihadist

Accused member of ISIL Kreshnik B. (R), waits for start of his trial in Frankfurt Sept. 15. REUTERS Photo

An alleged German jihadist went on trial Sept. 15 accused of fighting for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadists in Syria, amid calls for tougher action to prevent attacks in Europe by the extremist group.

In the first German criminal proceedings involving ISIL, Kreshnik Berisha, a 20-year-old born in the business capital Frankfurt to a family from Kosovo, has been charged with membership of a foreign terrorist organisation. He could face 10 years in prison if convicted by the city's superior regional court.

The trial opened under tight security amid a Western crackdown on IS over the threat posed by citizens returning home from Syria and Iraq, where they have gained weapons training and combat experience.

Federal prosecutors say Berisha travelled to Syria via Turkey in July 2013 with other Islamists planning to join the fighting to create a "caliphate" straddling Syria and Iraq.

Soon after his arrival, Berisha allegedly underwent firearms training and was put to work as a medic and a guard.

The heavy-set Berisha, wearing a full beard, a black T-shirt, hoodie and grey sweatpants, sat impassively as proceedings began.        

In the six months he spent in Syria, he is believed to have fought in at least three battles on the side of the jihadists against President Bashar al-Assad's troops.

He returned home for reasons that are unclear to German authorities in December 2013 and was arrested at Frankfurt airport.

Prosecutors say there is no evidence he was plotting an attack in Germany. But investigators are hoping for insights into the inner workings of ISIL in Europe before a verdict is announced, probably in late November.         

The trial comes with authorities already jittery that jihadist fighters could bring their battle back to European soil. Authorities estimate around 400 German nationals have travelled to Iraq and Syria to battle for the militants.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere announced Sept. 12 that Germany had outlawed active support of ISIL including the recruitment of fighters and social media propaganda.

"We must prevent radical Islamists bringing their jihad to our cities," he said.

Germany has launched 140 criminal probes against alleged ISIL fighters or supporters, news weekly Der Spiegel reported Sept. 15.