Syrian on trial for 'scouting out targets for IS' in Germany

Alleged Islamic State jihadist Shaas al-M hides his face as he waits for the opening of his trial on 4 January 2017 in Berlin Image copyright AFP
Image caption The suspect hid his face as he waited for his trial to begin at a special state security court in Berlin on Wednesday

A young Syrian man has gone on trial in Germany, accused of being deployed by so-called Islamic State to scope out potential targets in Berlin for attack.

Identified under German privacy laws as Shaas al-M, he claimed asylum in August 2015 and is now 20 years old.

Federal prosecutors say before that he fought with the Islamist militants for two years in his home country.

He is being tried by a special security court in Berlin, but reports suggest he refused to testify.

He has been in custody since his arrest on 22 March.

Shaas al-M's trial comes two weeks after Anis Amri ploughed a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people. IS later released a video showing him pledging allegiance to its leader Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi.

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Image copyright AFP
Image caption The trial is being held under tight security

Dressed in a blue pullover and a black cap, he hid his face behind a folder as he took his seat in the courtroom, reported AFP news agency.

Officers armed with machine guns were stationed outside the court.

Shaas al-M faces charges of being a member of a foreign terrorist organisation, which carries up to 10 years in jail, and violating laws governing military weapons.

In a previous statement (in German), the court detailed allegations of Shaas al-M's involvement in IS operations in Syria, including participating in the siege of the airport at Deir al-Zour, handling a Kalashnikov gun and helping supply fighters with food.

Once he had arrived in Germany, he maintained intensive contact with IS superiors, it says, and began to undertake visits to Berlin where he explored landmarks including Alexanderplatz, the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag parliament building, reporting his findings back to his contacts.

He is also accused of arranging for at least one person to travel to Syria to fight, and offering his services to assist would-be attackers travelling to Germany.

The court has scheduled some 25 hearings to run until April.

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