German prosecutors have opened the trial of an alleged former al Qaeda member, just over a year after his statements to interrogators prompted warnings of terrorist attacks across Europe.
The trial of a German-Afghan man who prompted warnings of terrorist plots in European cities in 2010 went on trial on Monday for suspected membership in al Qaeda and another terrorist group.
Federal prosecutors accuse 37-year-old Ahmad S. of traveling to Waziristan on the Afghan-Pakistani border in March 2009 to train for an armed jihad, or holy war, in Europe. He then allegedly joined the radical Islamist group the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and al Qaeda. The charges could bring up to 10 years in prison if he is convicted.
A statement read in court by prosecutors said the defendant was instructed by a "high-ranking al Qaeda member" to return to Germany to join a European network of the terrorist organization.
"The network was supposed to secure financial support for the organization, but at the same time be ready for other, not yet concrete, orders from the al Qaeda leadership," the statement said.
Europe attack warnings
The defense lawyer told reporters on the sidelines of the trial in the western city of Koblenz that his client would largely admit to the charges against him, but that he would dispute that he was involved in actual armed fighting.
The defendant, whose last name has been withheld under the German media's privacy guidelines, said during a court recess that he knew he would be punished, and that he was "happy that it's finally getting started."
Ahmad S. was arrested by United States troops in Afghanistan in July 2010 and was detained for nearly a year at the Baghram Air Base.
He said while in custody that al Qaeda was hatching plans in European cities, prompting Germany's then-Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere to warn the public around Christmas 2010 about potential terrorist attacks. No such attacks ever materialized.
acb/msh (AP, dpa)