Convicted jihadist found guilty of financing terrorism though female ISIS supporters
Former Hofstad Group member Samir A. was found guilty of financing terrorism and sentenced to 30 months in prison by the court in Rotterdam on Wednesday. The court ruled that the 36-year-old helped a group of women who support ISIS escape from camps in Syria, or sent them money directly with the help of money brokers and unmonitored banks, also known as hawala banking or "underground banking."
A. was acquitted of charges that he participated in the jihadist organization ISIS. The Public Prosecution Service (OM) had called for a sentence of six year sin prison. The imposed sentence was much lower than demanded, because A. was acquitted of participation in a terrorist organization, and the court said it was not proven that he intentionally supported ISIS.
A. was arrested in the summer of 2020, but has denied the allegations against him. He said he only provided humanitarian aid, because the Dutch government left the women and their children to fend for themselves.
The court indicated that a large number of the women are on the national terrorism sanctions list, and that A. knew about it. "You were aware of the developments in Syria," the court said. "So you knew that sending money to people on that list was punishable. At the very least you took the risk that the money could end up with ISIS and be used for terrorism. This is conditional intent," the court said.
A. collected a total of 107,000 dollars and sent it to Syria, planning and coordinating escapes from camps, according to the court. "You determined which women had to be picked up and coordinated the actions."
The money mainly went to Dutch women. Seven of them have since returned to the Netherlands. Of these, four have been convicted of terrorist acts, while the other three are still being prosecuted. The other women A. was alleged to have helped are Finnish, and have returned to Finland. Some women are believed to still be in the last remaining ISIS strongholds in Syria.
A. has already been in pre-trial detention for 389 days, a large portion of the sentence imposed by the court. A.'s lawyer, Tamara Buruma, who argued for acquittal, said she is considering an appeal. She said she is happy that A. was acquitted of participating in ISIS. "What we find disappointing is that the court concluded that there was terrorism financing, but this has nothing to do with it." She claimed her client could not tolerate that women and their children were in appalling conditions in the camps.
A. was previously sentenced to nine years in prison for terrorism, and was released in September 2013. He was a member of the Hofstad Group, a notorious network of radical Islamic youths at the time.
Mohammed B., the murderer of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, was also included in that group.
Reporting by ANP