A German court has convicted a radical Islamist preacher and three co-defendants of recruiting and radicalising young people in Germany for the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group.
Ahmad Abdulaziz Abdullah, also known as Abu Walaa, is believed to be the jihadist group’s de facto leader in Germany, according to Deutsche Welle news.
Walaa, known as the “preacher without a face” for always appearing in online videos with his back to the camera, was sentenced to over 10 years in prison on Wednesday after declining to make a closing statement at the end of his three-year trial.
The court in the northern German city of Celle said the Salafist preacher and his network radicalised young people, mainly in the country’s Ruhr region, and sent them to IS combat zones in the Middle East.
Three co-defendants received prison sentences of between four and eight years.
Walaa, 37, was born in Iraq and arrived in Germany in 2001 as an asylum seeker.
He became a preacher at a mosque in the city of Hildesheim in Lower Saxony, which became notorious for attracting Islamists from across Germany. The mosque was forced to close in 2017 when the government outlawed it.
While at the Hildesheim mosque, Walaa was accused of radicalising at least eight young people to become IS fighters in Iraq and Syria.
He was also accused of recruiting a pair of German twin brothers who carried out a suicide attack in Iraq in 2015, and of radicalising teenagers who in 2019 bombed a Sikh temple in Germany.
Another of his recruits was a young woman who attacked a German police officer with a knife in 2016 in Hannover and was sentenced to six years in prison.
The Tunisian who killed 12 people in a truck attack at a Berlin Christmas market in 2016 is also said to have had ties to Walaa.