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Syrian refugee sentenced by German court for kidnapping of UN observer

Anxieties that some Syrian refugees in Germany have ties to radical organizations have surfaced in recent years. A German court sentenced one asylum-seeker for crimes committed in Syria.

A court in the southern German city of Stuttgart sentenced a Syrian asylum-seeker to three and a half years in prison for his participation in the 2013 kidnapping of a UN observer in Syria.

The court found the defendant, identified as Suliman Al-S., supported the kidnapping and offered to serve as a guard. The judges did not agree with public prosecutors, however, that the 26-year-old belonged to the terrorist group, Al-Nusra Front, al Qaida's affiliate in Syria, or that the Nusra Front was responsible for the kidnapping.

Photo of the Nusra Front fighters in Syria

Public prosecutors argued the defendant was a member of Al-Nusra, an affiliate of Al-Qaida

The UN observer was allegedly kidnapped near Damascus in February 2013 by individuals close to the Nusra Front but was able to escape after eight months captivity.

Read more: Germany arrests Syrian national on war crimes, murder charges

Public prosecutors had requested Al-S., who arrived in Germany in 2014 as an asylum-seeker, serve seven years in prison. Al-S.'s lawyers asked the court for a suspended sentence of two years. The Stuttgart court agreed on the final sentence after considering the length and circumstances of the observer's captivity.

During the case, Al-S. admitted to visiting a villa where a foreigner was being held captive. However, he denied knowing that the prisoner was a UN employee or that the prisoner's captors were planning to convert the man to Islam. He also denied knowing about plans to release the man in exchange for a $100 million (€83 million) ransom.

A UN convoy in Damascus in Syria.

The defendant was accused of helping kidnap a Canadian UN observer near Damascus in 2013

The defendant at one point apologized to the Canadian observer directly and offered him €500 as compensation. The observer did not accept the gesture.

 After arriving in Germany in 2014, Al-S has been in police custody since January 2016. He is the first refugee to be charged for war crimes in Syria by a German court, according to the federal public prosecutor.

amp/sms (AP, AFP, dpa)

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