Rotterdam terror threat suspect was trying to unmask terrorists: lawyer

Members of a Dutch police SWAT team (Stock Photo: Politie)Members of a Dutch police SWAT team (Stock Photo: Politie)

A 22-year-old man fro Zevenbergen that was arrested last week for involvement in a terrorist threat in Rotterdam, did not commit any crimes, his lawyer Karianne Bal said to newspaper AD. According to her, Jimmy F. had good intentions and was trying to unmask terrorists.

"He thought he was talking to an ISIS sympathizer", Bal said about a chat conversation that is believed to have led to his arrest. "I am convinced that he is not guilty of any criminal offense."

According to the lawyer, F. frequently had such conversations to try and find out what terrorists' plans are. He passed information on to the Dutch authorities in the past, she said. Which services F. gave information to, she would not say. Bal also wouldn't comment on the content of the chat conversation that landed her client in prison. 

The Volkskrant reports that F. is a member of online group Syria General, which is active in several places around the world. Among other things, members of this group analyze pictures of ISIS members to try and figure out where they are located, the newspaper reported based on information from sources and chat conversations it got hold of. 

F. also belongs to a sub-group of Syria General called the Anti-Terror Infiltration Unit, according to the newspaper. The people in this group try to make contact on the internet with ISIS sympathizers who want to commit attacks in Europe. In the group chat conversations, the members discuss how to get information out of terrorists. 

Two sources, who asked the Volkskrant to keep them anonymous, told the newspaper that Jimmy F. regularly spoke with intelligence service AIVD. According to them, the AIVD was aware of his attempts to infiltrate terrorist groups. 

On Wednesday the court in Rotterdam remanded F. into custody for another two weeks. Bal can't believe that her client is still in custody. The Public Prosecutor officially suspects F. of involvement in terrorism. According to Bal, the judge only "for a very small part" believed this suspicion. "The judge said that there is no suspicion of terrorism. The only crime that he sees is incitement", she said to AD. 

Bal was only now able to talk to the media, because F. was in restricted custody until Wednesday. This means that he was allowed no contact with the outside world, except with his lawyer. The court lifted this restriction on Wednesday. According to Bal, this happened at her request.

F. was arrested in his Zevenbergen home last week. He was connected to a terrorist threat in Rotterdam, that resulted in a concert by American band Allah-Las in the Maassilo being canceled. The Dutch authorities were tipped off about the threat by the Spanish police. The Spanish authorities came across the threat in an ongoing investigation. The Rotterdam threat is not connected to recent terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, the Spanish authorities said.

According to Bal, F. called the local police about the threat in Rotterdam shortly before his arrest, but they did not do anything about it. She speaks of a "bizarre coincidence of circumstances".

A spokesperson for the Public Prosecutor would not comment on Bal's statements to AD. "The investigation is still in progress", was all she would say.