Tunisian-German couple in court over ‘ricin attack plot’

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Defendant Sief Allah H. (C) covers his face as he arrives in a courtroom of the higher regional court in Duesseldorf, Germany, 07 June 2019. (EPA)
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Defendant Yasmin H. arrives in a courtroom of the higher regional court in Duesseldorf, Germany, 07 June 2019. (EPA)
Updated 07 June 2019

Tunisian-German couple in court over ‘ricin attack plot’

  • Sief Allah H., 30, and his wife Yasmin, 43, were arrested a year ago by an anti-terrorist squad that found 84 milligrams of ricin in their Cologne apartment
  • The pair had allegedly researched various forms of explosives before deciding on the deadly poison

DUSSELDORF: A Tunisian man and his German wife went on trial Friday, charged with planning a foiled biological bomb attack in Germany with the deadly poison ricin.
Sief Allah H., 30, and his wife Yasmin, 43, were arrested a year ago by an anti-terrorist squad that found 84 milligrams of the toxin in their Cologne apartment.
The arrests likely prevented what would have been Germany’s first biological attack, said Holger Muench, head of the BKA Federal Criminal Police Office, at the time.
Federal prosecutors said the couple had “for a long time identified with the aims and values of the foreign terrorist organization Islamic State.”
They decided in 2017 to detonate an explosive in a large crowd, “to kill and wound the largest possible number of people,” said prosecutors ahead of the trial in Duesseldorf.
Chief prosecutor Verena Bauer told the court the couple had planned to build a bomb with ricin and steel balls, and that they had purchased “nearly all the required parts” for the explosive.
Lawyers for the defendants said the accused did not plan to make statements in court.
Sief Allah H.’s defense meanwhile filed a motion against judge Jan van Lessen, claiming bias.
The pair had allegedly researched various forms of explosives before deciding on the deadly poison.
They ordered 3,300 castor beans over the Internet and successfully made a small amount of ricin, a poison 6,000 times more potent than cyanide that can kill if swallowed, inhaled or injected, according to prosecutors.
Investigators also found 250 metal balls, two bottles of nail polish remover as well as wires soldered on lightbulbs.
Only the raid and arrests prevented “the production of a larger quantity of ricin and the building of an explosive,” said prosecutors.
The couple were caught after a tip-off from the US Central Intelligence Agency, which had noticed the large online purchase of castor seeds, according to German media reports.
News weekly Der Spiegel has reported that the couple were believed to have already been radicalized when they met online in 2014.
Sief Allah H., a former street vendor and laborer in Tunisia, in 2015 married Yasmin H., an unemployed doctor’s assistant and mother of seven children from four different fathers, the report said.
The husband had been in contact with extremists and tried twice in 2017 to travel to Syria via Turkey.
His wife helped him with flight and hotel bookings, but both trips failed.
Sief Allah H. also volunteered to help Daesh in their propaganda work, and did so in early 2018 by publishing material of the extremist group online, said prosecutors.
Later, the couple decided to prepare an attack in Germany itself, and also bought a hamster to test the potency of the ricin.
“Very concrete preparations had been made for an act with a ... biological bomb, which is a first for Germany,” said Muench.
If convicted of the charges of serious violence endangering the country, the defendants could each face up to 15 years in jail.
Two suspects were also arrested in August last year in Tunisia in connection with the case.
Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, remains on high alert after several deadly attacks claimed by Daesh.
The worst attack, a 2016 truck rampage through a Berlin Christmas market by Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri, claimed 12 lives.
The trial is expected to last until the end of August.


Islamic development fund aims to get extra 28 million kids in schools by 2030

Updated 28 January 2020

Islamic development fund aims to get extra 28 million kids in schools by 2030

  • 258 million young people are out of school around the world
  • The bank has raised the level of partnerships and cooperation with several education authorities

RIYADH: The Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development aims to ensure that an additional 28 million children who are currently denied a proper education can go to school by 2030. In addition, it will support educational projects for refugees in conflict zones such as Syria and Burma.

The plans were announced by Bandar Mohammed Hajjar, president of the Islamic Development Bank Group, during its celebrations marking World Education Day.

He said that more than 258 million young people are out of school around the world, two thirds of them in the group’s member states. Statistics suggest that 39 percent of them will start school late, 20 percent will drop out and 41 percent will never get the chance to go to school at all, he added.

The bank recently approved its education policy, Hajjar said, based on a desire to improve the provision of basic education and higher education, along with support services and technical consulting for national education policies in member countries. The bank has signed memoranda of understanding and cooperation agreements with educational institutions in Saudi Arabia, he added.

The bank has raised the level of partnerships and cooperation with several education authorities and related organizations, including the Global Partnership for Education, UNESCO, the German development agency GIZ, the Education Above All Foundation and the nonprofit Save the Children.

“The bank presented an innovative program aimed at enabling NGOs to improve the social and economic well-being of societies that are difficult to reach, through refugee education, job creation, and community-based livelihood development,” Hajjar said. “The bank also has a plan to increase the number of refugees holding scholarships in higher-education programs, to support their access to better economic opportunities and contribute to efforts to rebuild their countries once they return to them.”

The bank recently launched the “Sabeel” fund in partnership with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, he added, and it also aims to support refugees and displaced persons in Organization of Islamic Cooperation countries and host countries.

The bank has financed more than 2,000 education projects in 136 member and non-member countries, at an estimated cost of more than $5 billion.

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