Is­lam con­vert tests Ger­man ter­ror laws

Lesotho Times - - International -

WUP­PER­TAL — Fun­da­men­tal­ist Is­lamic preacher Sven Lau claims he has a sim­ple test to sep­a­rate un­der­cover of­fi­cers from passers-by. He gives them the fin­ger. If they don’t re­spond, he said, “they’re in­tel­li­gence agents.”

Ger­man au­thor­i­ties have spent at least eight years mon­i­tor­ing Mr Lau, a 34-year-old ex-fire­fighter from a Catholic fam­ily who now prac­tices a strict form of Is­lam known as Salafism.

Of­fi­cials say Mr Lau is one of the most prom­i­nent Is­lamic preach­ers in Ger­many, with a charis­matic mes­sage that lures young Ger­mans into rad­i­cal Mus­lim cir­cles. The head of Ger­many’s do­mes­tic in­tel­li­gence agency called Mr Lau one of the coun­try’s “best-known propa- gan­dists.”

Au­thor­i­ties al­lege Mr Lau in­spired some of his fol­low­ers to join Is­lamic mil­i­tants in Syria and Iraq, and fear they will even­tu­ally spawn ter­ror at­tacks in Ger­many and the West.

Mr Lau, who has de­liv­ered ser­mons to hun­dreds of lis­ten­ers across Ger­many, de­nies the al­le­ga­tion. De­spite wire­taps and searches of his home and com­put­ers by au­thor­i­ties, he re­mains free.

He de­nied any ties to ter­ror­ism or the ex­trem­ist group Is­lamic State — “I’m not pro-is,” he said — and de­scribed his past trips to Syria as hu­man­i­tar­ian work.

The stand­off be­tween Mr Lau and Ger­man se­cu­rity agents il­lus­trates the dif­fi­culty of draw­ing a clear line be­tween opin­ion and sedition at a time when Euro­pean au­thor­i­ties face grow­ing num­bers of dis­af­fected Mus­lims, some of them tak­ing on rad­i­cal views.

Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials say they mon­i­tor a wide range of Is­lamist pros­e­ly­tiz­ing but only a small mi­nor­ity pass the thresh­old for pros­e­cu­tion on charges of sup­port­ing ter­ror­ism.

“He con­tin­ues to rad­i­calise young peo­ple and cre­ates fer­tile soil for fu­ture vi­o­lence,” said Burkhard Freier, the do­mes­tic in­tel­li­gence chief in Mr Lau’s home state of North-rhine West­phalia.

“To prove this un­der the rule of law with means that will stand up in court is, well, dif­fi­cult.”

In Fe­bru­ary, au­thor­i­ties ar­rested Mr Lau after he re­turned from Syr- ia on sus­pi­cion of re­cruit­ing for a for­eign armed force and pre­par­ing a “se­ri­ous act of vi­o­lent sub­ver­sion.”

“They de­scribed him as an “ide­o­log­i­cal link of well-known, su­per­re­gional Salafist net­works.”

Au­thor­i­ties also al­leged Mr Lau helped raise money for an am­bu­lance and per­suaded two men to drive it, along with thou­sands of euros, to Syria in Fe­bru­ary — des­tined for a ji­hadist group.

Mr Lau de­nies the al­le­ga­tions. He also de­nies sup­port­ing ji­hadists, pre­par­ing vi­o­lent acts or en­cour­ag­ing other Ger­mans to join mil­i­tants.

His lawyer, Mutlu Günal, said wire­tapped phone con­ver­sa­tions of his client by Ger­man au­thor­i­ties showed “the money was meant for a hos­pi­tal in Aleppo.” Mr. Günal and court of­fi­cials de­clined to re­lease records of the con­ver­sa­tions.

In the con­tin­u­ing pub­lic re­la­tions bat­tle with au­thor­i­ties, Mr Lau’s ar­rest greatly boosted his pro­file among Is­lamic fun­da­men­tal­ists.

Ger­man of­fi­cials see a rise in home-grown Is­lamic ex­trem­ism, among im­mi­grants as well as eth­nic Ger­mans.

Do­mes­tic in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials say Salafis now make up the coun­try’s fastest-grow­ing Is­lamist move­ment: More than 6 300 com­pared with 4 500 in 2012.

While most are peace­ful, Ger­man in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials said, nearly all the Is­lamist ter­ror­ist net­works found in Ger­many had ties to Salafis. — WSJ

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