Judges in a Hamburg regional court are hearing the case of 27-year-old Harry S. He is accused of being a member of the "Islamic State" terror group and actively involved with Bremen's orthodox Muslim Salafists.
Prosecutors in Hamburg said that Harry S. (pictured above) traveled to Syria in April 2015, where he became a member of the "Islamic State" (IS) and received military training. Harry S. did not reportedly complete the training. Instead, he played a role in IS propaganda videos, holding the group's black flag and motivating other people to join the terror outfit.
The 27-year-old returned to Germany in July 2015, was arrested by authorities and has remained in police custody. Charges against Harry S. include membership in a terror organization.
Life before the IS for Harry S.
In an interview detailing the profile of the suspected Islamist, broadcaster Radio Bremen's journalists said the child of Ghanaian parents had a relatively good upbringing despite the Catholic family's rather modest financial means. He was also well-integrated in German culture and was a skilled football player. However, he ran into bad company in his teens, committing small crimes and even robbing a supermarket in Bremen. He was put on probation by the state judges and ordered to pay a fine.
Shortly after, Harry S. moved to London, where his family had relocated. He intended to start a new life in the British capital, converted to Islam and later missed payments on his probation fine to German authorities. In 2012, he return to Germany, was arrested and put in prison.
Conversion and radicalization
Once in jail, the 27-year-old socialized with members of the conservative Salafist "Culture and Family Union" (KuF), including Rene Marc S., who was serving time for propagating the al Qaeda's ideas.
"He packaged his ideology as Islam," Harry S. told Radio Bremen's journalists. "He said, 'This is Islam. What you have been practicing until now is not Islam."
Harry S. continued to meet KuF members after he was out of prison and went with them on a trip to the holy Muslim city of Medina in Saudi Arabia.
At some point Harry S. decided to start life afresh - again. He got married in 2014, but soon had a change of heart and decided to go to Syria with a friend. "I obviously knew there was a war going on there," he told reporters.
But his friend convinced him to move to Syria, saying he would live happy under Islamic law and would not have to fight in the war but could help building the country, Harry S. said.
The terror suspect's first attempt to reach Syria in 2014 was stalled by Turkish authorities, who sent him back to Europe. German officials withdrew his passport, but he later used fake documents to get back to Syria in April 2015, where he joined IS and began training in a military camp.
Life in the "Islamic State"
In a special interview with German public broadcaster ZDF, Harry S. revealed he was part of an IS "special unit" that planned terror attacks in Europe. "They asked us, 'Are you ready to commit terror attacks even in Germany,'" Harry S. told reporters.
IS members from France were more prepared to commit terror strikes in their country in comparison to their German counterparts, according to the accused. The Germans always got "cold feet."
Harry S. soon got disillusioned with IS practices.
"Innocent people are killed there," he said. "This ideology and dream of a perfect life are wrong. It is completely idiotic, completely false. There is nothing right and nothing Islamic about it.
"It was a huge experience for me and was a big reason why I said to myself, I am out of here. I don't want blood on my hands. I don't want to die [in Syria]."
Harry S. left Syria through Turkey and went underground with the help of some German friends in the coastal city of Izmir. He was arrested when he landed in Bremen in July 2015. The terror suspect has promised to reveal all information he has about the IS and said he wants to try and help prevent young people from being ensnared by terror outfits like the "Islamic State."
Security officials in Germany estimate that at least 810 men and women have left the country to join IS jihadis in Syria and Iraq. Around 270 have returned, according to ZDF.