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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Finland : Three Somalis accused of financing Al Shabaab appear in court

 Helsinki Times - The first ever terrorism trial in Finland commenced at the District Court of Helsinki on 7 October, with three men standing accused of financially supporting al-Shabab, a terrorist faction based in Somalia, and one of them also of preparing and recruiting for a terrorist offence.

The defendants have denied all criminal accusations.

Pre-trial documents made public on 7 October indicate that this main suspect, a man born in 1977, was already under the surveillance of the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) in 2009. He was eventually brought into custody in the latter half of 2011, roughly six months after the National Bureau of Investigation (KRP) had joined the investigation.

The indictment alleges that the man recruited his older brother to al-Shabab in 2010, and conspired to transport the 15 and 17-year-old children of the brother against their will to a terrorist training camp in Somalia.

Although the plan was ultimately scrapped for financial reasons, it had been developed to a stage where there was a genuine threat it could be carried out, the prosecutor highlights in the indictment. For example, the man had looked up the cost of the trip, considered a variety of routes, looked into visa requirements and discussed the plan with several people over the phone.

The defendant has rejected the charges, arguing that he has not seen his older brother for years and could not have recruited the brother while in Finland. Instead, the phone conversations cited by the prosecution as evidence concern the natural desire of the brother to reunite with his partner and children either in Finland or Somalia, the defence counsel explained.

The other charges under consideration concern financing the activities of al-Shabab.

The three defendants are believed to have collected and sent a total of 3,000 euros to the militant group, fully aware of the fact that the money would be used for acts of terror. According to state prosecutor Juha-Mikko Hämäläinen, phone surveillance has produced evidence confirming that the money has been used by al-Shabab militants to acquire food, shoes and weapons.

In addition, Hämäläinen estimated that although the sums sent to Somalia are small, solving offences such as this is of utmost importance to Finland.

The defendants have admitted to sending money to Somalia but rejected allegations that the money was used for acts of terror.

The trial began at the District Court of Helsinki on 7 October with a preparatory hearing, and will continue with the main hearings in mid-November. The prosecution is expected to demand suspended prison terms for the defendants.
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