Stuttgart, Germany. What happens when a German court labels as “a foreign terrorist organization” an American backed rebel group in Syria? The western press basically ignores it.
On October 4, the Baden Wurtenberg State Court in Stuttgart sentenced four men for providing material support to the Sunni extremist group Ahrar al-Sham. Presiding Judge Hartmut Schnelle did not mince his words when he described the group as an organization determined to impose Sharia through violence. It is the first court decision of its kind and, if upheld by the Federal Appeals Court, could open the path to further trials against US-backed Sunni extremist groups in European courts.
Judge Schnelle pointed out that the American supported Ahrar al-Sham is known for taking hostages, for suicide attacks, the execution of prisoners and attacks on Alawite villages. “Violence against civilians cannot be justified,” he said.
Last February, Washington rejected a Russian request to exclude this group from a ceasefire deal. Moscow had been pushing to get Sunni extremist groups out of the peace process for months. “Jayash al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham are criminal terrorist organizations that should be liquidated,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in December 2015.
True to European tradition, the four who provided 133, 000 Euros in supplies to the group were given light sentences. The master-mind, a 33-year-old Lebanese national, received a three-and-a-half-year sentence while the other three, aged 30, 32 and 50, were handed suspended sentences. Only their first names were released in accordance with German privacy laws which protect even the guilty from public scrutiny.
Ahrar al-Sham, like their al-Qaeda allies al-Nusra Front, are members Jaish al-Fatah rebel alliance. This past week the group reaffirmed its commitment to al-Qaeda and in Idlib province the group turned on other rebels who refuse to submit to the alliance.
The German court ruling is well worth covering in the US and British press. It could expose the hypocrisy behind US Ambassador Samantha Power’s crocodile tears at the UN and create enough public opinion to force the US, France and the UK to seek a serious settlement in Syria which does not include giving the country to Islamic extremists.
- Just in case you were wondering what side Turkey has been on all this time, you should know that Ahrar al-Sham fully supported last month’s Turkish intervention in Northern Syria against the Kurds. Ahrar al-Sham is also in conflict with ISIS over which brand of Islamic extremism will prevail.