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Cablegate: Guilty Verdict in Ansar-Al Islam Trial

VZCZCXRO2365
OO RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHLZ
DE RUEHFT #2271 2031413
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 211413Z JUL 08
FM AMCONSUL FRANKFURT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7384
INFO RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0337

UNCLAS FRANKFURT 002271

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/AGS, EUR/PGI, S/CT

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER ASEC KISL IZ GM
SUBJECT: Guilty Verdict in Ansar-al Islam Trial

REF: A 07 Frankfurt 0445
B. 06 Frankfurt 4401
C. 06 Frankfurt 7499

Sensitive but unclassified; not for internet distribution.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: After more than two years of proceedings, on July
15 the Fifth Senate at the Higher Regional Court in Stuttgart
announced guilty verdicts for all three defendants in the in the
Ansar-al Islam trial. Ata Abdoulaziz Rashid received a ten years
sentence, Mazen al-Hussein seven and a half years and Rafik Mohamad
Yousef eight years. The court found the three men guilty of
membership in a foreign terrorist organization as well as attempted
murder. The sentences were less than the eleven years for Rashid
and eight years and nine months for Al-Hussein and Yousef requested
by the prosecutor. The defense announced its intention to appeal.
END SUMMARY.

GUILTY VERDICTS FOR ALL THREE DEFENDANTS
----------------------------------------

2. Two years after the beginning of the Ansar-al Islam trial at
the Higher Regional Court in Stuttgart in June 2006, the presiding
judge of the Fifth Senate, Christine Rebsam-Bender, announced the
guilty verdicts on July 15. The five judges of the Fifth Senate
found Ata Abdoulaziz Rashid (34), Mazen al-Hussein (27) and Rafik
Mohamad Yousef (33) guilty of planning to assassinate Iraqi Prime
Minister Allawi on his December 3, 2004 visit to Germany and of
belonging to the terrorist organization Ansar al-Islam (a federal
offense since 2002). The three Iraqi men have been in custody since
December 3, 2004.

3. In the ruling, Rebsam-Bender argued that Ansar-al Islam is one
of the most dangerous terror organizations in Iraq and that Rashid
had been the leader of the group in Germany. Although the sentences
were less than Prosecutor Silke Ritzert had called for, she
described the verdict as "very satisfying." The defense immediately
announced it would appeal the verdict to the Federal Criminal Court
(Bundesgerichtshof) in Karlsruhe, Germany's highest legal authority.


4. Rashid's attorney Roland Kugler asserted that the court had
simply relied on U.S. sources for information about Ansar al-Islam
and had accepted the accusations of the prosecutors prima facie.
The attorneys for Rashid and Hussein also argued that their clients
were not terrorists, but members of Iraqi resistance against an
illegal war. (Note: Rafik defended himself after firing his
attorneys. End Note.)

A LONG TRIAL COMES TO AN END
----------------------------

5. The trial ran for over two years due to numerous motions filed
by the defense, which had little chance of success but slowed the
proceedings. The defendants at times disrupted the proceedings with
antics, on one occasion destroying a microphone, and often yelling
at and insulting the judges. In late June 2008, the court ruled
that it would accept no further motions, saying they were a
deliberate strategy to slow down the trial.

6. The prosecution also expressed doubt that any of the defendants
would qualify for early release on grounds of good behavior. Two
letters from Rafik to fellow prison inmate Fritz Gelowicz, the
alleged head of the "Sauerlandgroup" arrested in September 2007,
were recently intercepted in the prison. In the letters Rafik
expressed his admiration for Gelowicz and offered to join him in
Jihad.

7. COMMENT: The verdict brings to an end a long trial that was
lengthened by the tactics and disruptions of the defendants.
Throughout the trial, the court moved cautiously in response to the
defendants' actions in order to prevent a mistrial. While the
appeal will go forward, the case against the defendants appears
strong. END COMMENT.

8. This cable was coordinated with Embassy Berlin.
POWELL

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