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German court tries 'Sharia police' Salafist

September 6, 2016

Islamist preacher Sven Lau's trial has begun in the regional court in Düsseldorf on charges of supporting a terror organization in Syria. The court will also debate on whether Lau himself can be branded a terrorist.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Scholz

Lau's trial began Tuesday afternoon at the regional court in the western German city of Düsseldorf.

Judges have scheduled 30 trial days, with the entire trial to run until January 18, 2017.

The first day of the trial was broken off soon after the charges against the accused were read out, with proceedings postponed until next week.

The delay was ordered because Lau initially refused to respond to the charges, according to his lawyer.

Leading figure in Salafist scene

Prosecutors have accused the 35-year-old of supporting the terror group Jamwa, (roughly translated as an army of emigrants and helpers), which is active in Syria. The Düsseldorf court's judges have also hinted that they could brand Lau a terrorist himself.

Complaints against Lau go back to the year 2013, when the Islamist preacher ferried two Salafists from Germany to join the Jamwa in Syria. One of these men was an Islamist who had been sentenced to four and a half years in prison. Lau allegedly also gathered monetary support and supplied night vision aids to the terrorists.

Sharia Polizei in Wuppertal Facebook
The "Sharia police" used this picture to attract supporters on FacebookImage: picture alliance/ROPI

The Islamist's lawyer, Mutlu Günal has claimed his client is innocent, accusing the main witness of being a "notorious liar."

Widely regarded as a leading figure in the German Salafist scene, Lau is reported to have initiated the "Sharia police" in Wuppertal in Germany's western industrial Ruhr region. Together with his accomplices, all aged between 24 and 35, he patrolled the streets in September 2014 in an attempt to enforce a strict interpretation of Islam.

Wearing orange vests, emblazoned with the words "Shariah police," the defendants allegedly demanded people at nightclubs stop drinking alcohol and listening to music. The bearded fundamentalists were also observed calling for an end to gambling as they carried signs in English, declaring a "Sharia Controlled Zone."

mg/jil (dpa, epd)