Denmark convicts three in terror plot case

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Østre Landsret, the High Court of Eastern Denmark.
Image: EPO.

On Friday, the High Court of Eastern Denmark (Østre Landsret) convicted three of four defendants of planning a terrorist attack against Denmark. The three were found guilty of acquiring triacetone triperoxide (TATP) in order to make bombs. TATP is believed to have been the explosive used in the London bombings of July 7, 2005.

Two of the men are Danish citizens. Mohammad Zaher, age 34, is a Dane of Palestinian origin. Abdallah Andersen, age 32, is a Dane who converted to Islam. Ahmed Khaldhahi, age 22, is an Iraqi of Kurdish ethnicity. The fourth defendant, also a Danish citizen, Riad Anwar Daabas, age 19, was acquitted.

Zaher and Khaldhahi were each sentenced to eleven years in prison, while Andersen received a four year sentence. All had faced life in prison, but the prosecutor asked for no more than 14 years.

The evidence against the men included a bomb-making manual and about two ounces of TATP found at Zaher's home, as well as, wire-tapped conversations which were made possible by an uncover agent known only as Lars.

Lars, age 33, is a Dane that converted to Islam. He contacted Politiets Efterretningstjeneste (PET), the national security intelligence agency of Denmark, after he encountered radical Muslims at the mosque he attended. The PET did acknowledge that Lars was a paid informant, with payments totalling some DKK84,000 (approximately US$16,700).

The defense, which denied the charges, argued that the recordings were made of them while they were joking about possible attacks. The defense also said that Lars was the one that bought and paid for the chemicals needed to make TATP. They also said that Lars encouraged them to do and say things they would otherwise not have done or said.

However, Judge Folmer Theilmann found that the anonymous witness Lars was both "credible" and a "good citizen" for his cooperation with the PET.

"There is every indication that the group had concrete and serious discussions about three possible targets in Copenhagen: the city hall square, the parliament and political meeting (areas)," said prosecutor Charlotte Alsing Juul.

Magnus Ranstorp, an expert on terrorism, said to Berlingske Tidende: "The length of the sentences sends a clear signal, that if one sets out on this course of action, one risks severe punishments. It can contribute to discourage young muslims, who are entering a radical islamic milieu or are on the verge. Hopefully, they will think twice and change course."

Ranstorp went on to say that the verdict was a validation of the investigative methods of the PET and its use of civilian informants. However, he thought that the criticism of Lars during this case, would result in the PET tightening their procedures.

The defendants were arrested on September 5, 2006, in a sting operation that involved 400 police officers. Nine people were arrested in the Vollsmose neighborhood of Odense, on the island of Funen (Fyn). Two were released the day after the arrest. Four others, including Daabas, were released later. Only those convicted remained jailed throughout.


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