Tunisian handed 10 years for ricin bomb plot in Germany

Defendant Sief Allah H. holds a folder in front of his face at the start of his trial on June 7, 2019 at a court in Duesseldorf, western Germany. (AFP)
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Updated 27 March 2020

Tunisian handed 10 years for ricin bomb plot in Germany

  • Daesh sympathizer Sief Allah H., 31, had ordered castor seeds, explosives and metal ball bearings on the Internet in order to build a toxic bomb
  • Sief Allah H. and wife caught after a tip-off from the US Central Intelligence Agency, which had noticed the large online purchase of castor seeds

BERLIN: A German court sentenced a 31-year-old Tunisian to 10 years in prison Thursday for planning a biological bomb attack with the deadly poison ricin.

Daesh sympathizer Sief Allah H., 31, had ordered castor seeds, explosives and metal ball bearings on the Internet in order to build the toxic bomb, a spokesman for the higher regional court in Duesseldorf said.

He was found guilty of producing a biological weapon and of planning a serious act of violent subversion.

His German wife Yasmin, 43, stands accused of helping him build the bomb but she is now being tried separately after the court accused her defense lawyers of attempting to spin out the case with a 140-page statement on Thursday.

Her trial will resume on April 1.

The couple “wanted to create a climate of fear and uncertainty among the German population,” judge Jan van Lessen was quoted by DPA as saying on Thursday.

He added that they had produced enough ricin to potentially kill up to 13,500 people.

The couple have been on trial since June last year following their arrest in 2018 by an anti-terrorist squad that found 84 milligrammes 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 Daesh.”

They decided in 2017 to detonate an explosive in a large crowd, “to kill and wound the largest possible number of people,” prosecutors said ahead of the trial.

Produced by processing castor beans, ricin is lethal in minute doses if swallowed, inhaled or injected and 6,000 times more potent than cyanide, with no known antidote.

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.

They also bought a hamster to test the potency of the poison.

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.

Sief Allah H. admitted to building the bomb but denied that he had planned an attack on German soil.

His defense lawyers had asked for a sentence of eight years.

“He is certainly guilty, we do not deny that,” they reportedly said.


Van Gogh painting stolen from Dutch museum during virus shutdown

Updated 56 min 52 sec ago

Van Gogh painting stolen from Dutch museum during virus shutdown

  • The 1884 painting, titled the ‘Parsonage Garden at Neunen in Spring,’ was taken during a pre-dawn break-in at the Singer Laren Museum near Amsterdam
  • The criminals smashed through a glass door and then took the painting, which is valued at up to €6 million

THE HAGUE: Thieves stole a painting by Dutch master Vincent van Gogh early Monday in a daring heist from a museum that was closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 1884 painting, titled the “Parsonage Garden at Neunen in Spring,” was taken during a pre-dawn break-in at the Singer Laren Museum near Amsterdam.
The criminals smashed through a glass door and then took the painting, which is valued at up to €6 million ($6.6 million).
“I am shocked and unbelievably annoyed this theft has happened,” Jan Rudolph de Lorm, one of the museum’s directors, told a press conference.
“Art is there to be seen, to be enjoyed, to inspire and to bring solace, particularly in these troubled times in which we find ourselves,” De Lorm said.
The theft happened on what would have been the 167th birthday of the brilliant yet troubled artist.
“Parsonage Garden at Neunen in Spring” comes from relatively early on in Van Gogh’s career, before the prolific artist embarked on his trademark post-impressionist paintings such as “Sunflowers” and his vivid self-portraits.
The painting was on loan from its owners, the Groninger Museum in the north of the Netherlands, as part of an exhibition.
The Singer Laren museum closed two weeks ago in compliance with Dutch government measures aimed at tackling the spread of COVID-19.
Dutch police said the criminals had broken in at around 3:15 am (0115 GMT).
“Police officers immediately rushed to the scene but the perpetrators had escaped,” Dutch police said in a statement, appealing for witnesses.
The painting has an estimated value of between one million and six million euros, Dutch art detective Arthur Brand said.
“The hunt is on,” said Brand, who is known for recovering stolen Nazi art including “Hitler’s Horses.”
It was the third time the famous Dutch master’s works have been targeted in the Netherlands since the 1990s, Brand said.
“To me this looks like the work of a copycat,” Brand told AFP, adding the modus operandi was similar to the other two cases.
“The thieves only went for a Van Gogh, while there are other works too in the museum,” he said.
Asked whether he thought there was enough security at the museum Brand said “it is very difficult to say.”
“Securing a painting is very difficult. It is something that has to be displayed for people to see,” he said.
The museum’s 3,000 pieces also include works by Dutch abstract master Piet Mondrian and Dutch-Indonesian painter Jan Toorop, as well as a casting of “The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin.
Singer Laren was targeted in 2007 when thieves stole a number of castings from its gardens including “The Thinker,” Dutch media reports said. The castings were recovered two days later.
Two Van Gogh masterpieces went back on display at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum last year after they were stolen from the museum in 2002.
The paintings — the 1882 ” View of the Sea at Scheveningen” and the 1884/5 “Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen” — were recovered by Italian investigators in September 2016 when they raided a home belonging to an infamous mafia drug baron near Naples.
Previously three Van Goghs that were stolen from the Noordbrabants Museum in 1990 later resurfaced when a notorious Dutch criminal made a deal with prosecutors.