Cologne- The trial of members of a “sleeper” terrorist cell that allegedly planned bloody suicide bombings in the heart of the Old City began Wednesday in Dusseldorf, the capital of the northern German state of Rhine-Westphalia.
The hearing session was held amid tight security at an anti-terrorism court, one of Germany’s most secure courts that has already seen trials of members of the “Red Army Faction.”
Leader of the so-called “sleeper cell of Dusseldorf” Saleh A. expressed his readiness to give full confessions about the crimes he has committed and the operations he has planned for despite receiving threats in prison.
Saleh, a 25-year-old Syrian national, told the court that ISIS was keeping his daughter, and that he had received threats from the extremist organization to remain in prison in the city of Wuppertal in exchange for keeping his daughter alive.
On the other hand, each of the two other defendants said that he will talk about himself and about his criminal history regardless of Saleh’s confessions.
Notably, the case came to light when Saleh went to a police station in Paris in February 2016 and told officers that he had “a certain amount of information about a sleeper cell that was ready to strike in Germany.”
Saleh said that he wanted to confess because of his unwillingness to let his daughter become “the daughter of a terrorist.”
He had been registered as an asylum seeker in the Dusseldorf region in 2013, and Germany requested extradition from France after he turned himself in.
The three accused “are believed to have plotted to have two suicide bombers set off explosive vests and then open fire on passers-by with automatic rifles,” the Düsseldorf court said in a statement.
They are identified as per German practice only as Saleh A. and Mahood B., 25, and 27-year-old Hamza C. and were in the dock accused of belonging to the ISIS terror group and planning the attacks in the Dusseldorf old town center in 2016.
German authorities believe Saleh and Hamza joined ISIS in Syria in early 2014. It is there that Saleh was said to have been given orders for the attack from the leadership of ISIS.
They crossed from Syria to Turkey in 2014 and were said to have reached Germany, traveling separately via Greece, between March and July 2015.
Saleh was then believed to have drawn up plans for the attack in which two of the extremists would detonate explosive vests in Dusseldorf’s historic old town. Another attacker would then have been placed at the old town’s exit, where he would have been tasked with killing as many of those fleeing the scene as possible with automatic weapons.
Two of the three men were to be assessed psychologically to evaluate their capacity for criminal responsibility.
The trial sessions are set to end in December.