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Trial opens in Frankfurt for German jihadist accused of war crimes in Syria

The trial of a 21-year-old jihadist has started in Frankfurt. The case is the first to be sent to trial in Germany for war atrocities tied to the Syrian conflict.

Under German law, it is not possible to give the full name of a suspect before sentencing in a court. The accused, "Aria L," is alleged to have travelled to Syria to join one of the jihadist organizations opposing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and moderate rebels. He is said to have posted pictures on Facebook of himself and two fellow fighters standing next to the severed heads of some of their victims.

The German national of Iranian origin was arrested near Frankfurt in October 2015 following a police raid on his apartment. His case is one of ten being investigated by the German authorities for war crimes in Syria. An additional 30 people are suspected of being members of Middle Eastern based terrorist networks.

The young man is charged with having "broken international humanitarian law by subjecting protected persons to seriously degrading and humiliating treatment."

Prosecutors say Aria L. was radicalized in the burgeoning Salafist scene in the Frankfurt area, one of the most active in Germany. State attorneys further allege that he then traveled to Syria at the beginning of 2014 where he received weapons training before carrying out the crimes of which he is accused.

In the wake of last year's arrival of over one million refugees in Germany, around 40 percent of them fleeing conflict in Iraq and Syria, authorities are under pressure to root out any possible jihadists or returning fighters in their midst. To that end, anyone applying for asylum in Germany is bound to report war crimes they have witnessed, giving the police an average of 25 to 30 tip-offs a day for possible militants hiding among the refugees.

es/jm (dpa, AFP)

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