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Cablegate: High Profile Islamic Terrorist Trial Opens in Duesseldorf

VZCZCXRO4595
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN RUEHLZ
RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHDF #0038/01 3521513
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 181513Z DEC 07
FM AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0104
INFO RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 0002
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RUEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHDF/AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF 0118

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DUSSELDORF 000038

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KISL PTER KPAO KVPR GM
SUBJECT: HIGH PROFILE ISLAMIC TERRORIST TRIAL OPENS IN DUESSELDORF

REF: A) DUSSELDORF 30; B) DUSSELDORF 34

DUSSELDORF 00000038 001.2 OF 002


Sensitive but Unclassified -- Not for Internet Distribution

1. (U) Summary: A high profile Islamic terrorist trial opened
before the Duesseldorf Higher Regional Court on December 18.
With the help of an accomplice, Lebanese national Youssef
Mohamad El-Hajdib, known as the "suitcase bomber," has been
charged with attempted murder in an undetermined number of cases
as well as attempting to cause an explosion by placing suitcases
containing bombs (which failed to detonate) on two commuter
trains in Cologne in July 2006. According to the Federal
Prosecutor, El-Hajdib and his accomplice acted in retaliation
for the publication of Mohammed caricatures in the Danish and
German press earlier that year. A verdict in this case is
expected in the summer of 2008. The maximum sentence possible
for these crimes is life imprisonment. End summary.

2. (U) Exactly sixteen months after his arrest in
Schleswig-Holstein in August 2006, the trial against Youssef
Mohamad El-Hajdib (DOB: 9/19/1984), a former engineering student
at the University of Kiel, opened before the Duesseldorf Higher
Regional Court. The trial is held at a specially designed high
security court house and presided over by Judge Otmar Breidling,
widely recognized as one of Germany's most experienced judges in
terrorism-related cases (reftels). The charges were presented
by Horst Salzmann, Chief Public Prosecutor at the Federal Court
of Justice, on the first day of the trial on December 18.

Retaliation for the Mohammed caricatures
----------------------------------------

3. (SBU) According to Salzmann, El-Hajdib conspired in April
2006 with his Lebanese countryman Jihad Hammad (21), a Cologne
resident at the time, to execute a terrorist bomb attack on the
train system in Germany in retaliation for the publication of
Mohammed caricatures in the Danish and German press earlier that
year. The original plan, according to a senior level law
enforcement official, was to commit the crime during the 2006
Soccer World Cup in Germany when hundreds of thousands of soccer
fans were using public transportation systems to travel to the
games. According to media reports, however, heightened security
measures during the World Cup caused the defendants to postpone
their plans.

Bombs fail to detonate
----------------------

4. (U) As shown by evidence obtained through video monitoring
cameras, on July 31, 2006 around 1 PM, Hajdib and Hammad placed
suitcases containing IED's and incendiary material on north and
south-bound commuter trains at the Cologne central railway
station. The prosecution argues that the bombs were to detonate
simultaneously at 2:30 PM, but did not go off due to faulty
construction, although the automatic fuse setting device was
activated. According to experts, a detonation would have caused
a considerable shock wave and a fire ball that could have killed
dozens of people. (Note: Hammad fled to Lebanon following the
bombing attempt and was arrested there. A Beirut court charged
both Hammad and Hajdib, in absentia, for their actions -- see
para 6.)

Verdict expected in summer 2008
--------------------------------

5. (U) Thus far, 28 days of court hearings have been scheduled
until the end of April. The court spokesman indicated to us,
however, that even more time will be needed to reach a verdict
and therefore the court will come out with a new schedule for
further hearings at the end of March. He showed himself
confident that the court would issue a verdict during the summer
of 2008. The maximum punishment for the crimes the defendant is
charged with is life imprisonment.

Beirut Court Sentences Hammad and Hajdib
-----------------------------------------

6. (U) Independent from the Duesseldorf proceedings, media
report that on December 18 a Beirut court sentenced Hajdib in
abstentia to death for his involvement in the bombing plot.
This judgment was subsequently reduced to life in prison.
Assuming Hajdib is convicted by the Duesseldorf court and
sentenced to prison, he could well face additional prison time
in Lebanon upon completing his sentence in Germany. The Beirut
court sentenced Hammad to twelve years in prison.

Comment
-------

7. (SBU) This case marks the first time in an Islamist terrorist

DUSSELDORF 00000038 002.2 OF 002


trial in Germany where the charges are attempted murder. This
has raised the profile of the case and some argue has made the
threat of terrorism in Germany real. The court's press
spokesman told us that he expects a verdict in late summer 2008.
Based on the court's history and the thoroughness that
Breidling exercises in his courtroom (reftel), we would not be
surprised to see a decision come out later than expected --
perhaps fall of 2008.

8. (U) This message was coordinated with Embassy Berlin.
KRAFT

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