Report: Syrian terror suspect may be innocent

no image
No image availableNL Times

A Syrian asylum seeker who was arrested last year because he told other asylum seekers in a Zaandam shelter that he was a fighter for ISIS and Al-Qaeda, may bee innocent. Behavioral scientists consider it likely that now 19-year-old Mohanned B. told these stories to survive, Dutch newspaper AD reports based on expert reports.

During interrogations B. claimed that his claims to belong to terrorist organizations were only boasts made in an attempt to protect himself. "I was just scared", he said according to the newspaper. The Behavioral scientists found no evidence that B. is a member of a terrorist group. They saw an immature young man who made unwise statements in a strange and uncertain situation.

Mohanned B. lost two brothers in the Syrian civil war late in 2013, after which B. and his surviving family decided to flee Aleppo. His parents stayed in Turkey while Mohanned continued to the Netherlands. He ended up in an asylum center in Zaandam, where he told other asylum seekers that he was a fighter for ISIS and Al-Qaeda. He was arrested in December based on these statements.

A number of politicians, including PVV leader Geert Wilders, used this arrest as evidence that terrorists are hiding among the thousands of asylum seekers fleeing to Europe. “We saw in Paris and now in the Netherlands what the asylum tsunami brings with it. Muslim terrorist”, the anti-Islam party leader said at the time.

According to AD, B.'s interrogations raised more and more doubts about his statements. Not only does he vehemently deny that he is a member of a terrorist organization, he also does show typical terrorist behavior. The suspects in The Hague jihadist trial of last year, for example, remained silent during interrogations, only referring to bulky manifestos in which they defend the jihad.

Next week there will be a procedural hearing in the court of Rotterdam in B.'s case. During this hearing, B.'s state of mind will be discussed. His lawyer also plans to request B.'s conditional release.