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German federal court overturns ‘Sharia Police’ acquittal

A German federal court has overturned the acquittal of seven Muslim members of an armed "Sharia police squad" and instructed a Wuppertal court to reconvene the case.

Published: January 12, 2018, 7:35 am

    Karlsruhe

    Seven Muslim vigilantes had been put on trial in Wuppertal earlier for falsely wearing uniforms inscribed with “Sharia Police” while patrolling the streets of Wuppertal at night in September 2014.

    Their vigilante patrols, openly challenging North-Rhine Westphalia’s own police force, was met with country-wide condemnation, as paragraph 3 of the German federal law clearly prohibits the public display of uniforms, uniform parts, or similar gear to communicate collective political persuasion.

    Germany’s Federal Court of Justice ruled on Thursday that a regional court had made a mistake in November 2016 to acquit the Muslim vigilantes, because the chamber had not examined the impact of the vigilantes’ actions on the public.

    The Federal Court of Justice, known in German as the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH), is Germany’s highest court of criminal and civil jurisdiction and is based in Karlsruhe, alongside Germany’s top Constitutional Court, the Verfassungsgericht.

    The Karlsruhe judges said there should be an investigation as the whether the “Sharia Police” intimidated the public.

    The case revision had been sought by public prosecutors, after the Wuppertal regional court ruled that the vigilantes “had not broken German law” accosting the public.

    Its judicial panel concluded that the law was mainly aimed at Nazi sympathisers, and only applicable if uniforms were “suggestively militant or intimidating”. The vigilantes had stated during the first trial that they had been deployed to police young Muslims.

    In July last year, a Dusseldorf court sentenced Sven Lau, a German Salafist convert and Islamist preacher, who had formed the “Sharia Police” group, to five and a half years in prison.

    In Celle, in north Germany, moreover, a witness testified at the trial of Abu Walaa, an Islamic State recruiter, in November that Walaa, together four other accused, had obtained pistols fitted with silencers to retaliate for the official intervention in Wuppertal.

    One of the four co-defendants in the trial Walaa is said to have planned an attack on police officers in Wuppertal.

    The attack was planned to take place in the summer of 2015, a revenge response for an intervention by a police command in Wuppertal, but a key witness heavily incriminated the main defendant.

    “We had been called to use violence in the name of Allah,” the 23-year-old German Turk Anil O. testified in court. The chief witness described his radicalisation and instruction by two of the defendants in the Ruhr. “We were presented with two options: The armed struggle in Germany, that is, to commit attacks here, or the exit to ISIS,” the witness continued.

    The Federal Prosecutor’s Office believe Abu Walaa is the central leader of ISIS in Germany. The witness Anil O. is a former ISIS sympathiser from Gelsenkirchen, in North Rhine-Westphalia. He has since renounced ISIS and testified against his former comrades.

    He currently lives with his wife in a witness protection program.

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