January 20, 2015 / 3:03 PM / in 3 years

Man goes on trial in Germany for helping attack on Syrian jail

MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) - A German man of Afghan descent went on trial on Tuesday charged with being a member of a terrorist organization and an accomplice to murder in Syria after participating in a jihadist attack on a prison in Aleppo.

Defendant Harun P. (C) arrives next to his lawyer Adam Ahmed (2nd R) for the start of his trial in a courtroom in Munich January 20, 2015. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

Munich court spokeswoman Andrea Titz said the German-born man, aged 27 and identified only as Harun P., could face a life sentence if convicted at the trial, which is expected to run until April 23.

“He was active in an Islamic terror group from October 2013 to April 2014 and trained to fight. He grew up in Germany and was radicalized only in recent years before going to Syria,” Titz said.

A lawyer for Harun P. described a troubled life in Germany marred by depression and substance abuse, local media reported. He dropped out of three job training programs.

Thousands of Western volunteers have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join militant groups. The trend has raised fears in Europe and the United States of attacks by returning fighters.

Harun P. traveled to Syria in September 2013. He was extradited to Germany after being detained in Prague in April 2014, federal prosecutors say.

The prosecutors have accused him of joining Junud al Sham, described as an Islamist group with several hundred fighters in Syria trying to depose President Bashar al-Assad.

They said he had joined in an attack involving some 1,600 jihadists on the central state prison in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo in February 2014. Two government soldiers and five inmates died in the assault, they said.

Security authorities say about 550 German citizens have joined militants fighting in Iraq and Syria and about 60 have been killed, some in suicide attacks. Around 180 are believed to have returned home.

Germany’s government-funded Institute for International and Security Affairs has described Junud al Sham as a well-trained, predominantly Chechen group which has often cooperated with the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s official affiliate in the Syrian war.

Writing by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Gareth Jones

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