CELLE, Germany (Reuters) - A teenage German-Moroccan girl went on trial in Germany on Thursday accused of stabbing a policeman on the orders of Islamic State (IS) militants, and her lawyer argued that she lacked the capacity to know she was doing wrong.
Safia S., a dual citizen, has been in prison awaiting trial for the attack at a train station in Hanover in February. She is charged with attempted murder and with being an IS supporter.
She traveled in January to Istanbul where she met members of Islamic State who planned to help her enter territory it controls in Syria, prosecutors have said.
While in Istanbul, they said, she received IS orders to carry out a “martyrdom attack” in Germany. She stabbed and seriously wounded the policeman after she was brought back to Germany by her mother, prosecutors said. She was 16 at the time.
Her lawyer, Mutlu Guenal, said after the first trial session that Safia had sent a letter of apology to the policeman and that he hoped psychologists would confirm that she lacked the cognitive ability to recognize her actions were unacceptable.
“Based on the circumstances, there are doubts that Safia had the cognitive faculty needed to see that what she was about to do was wrong,” he said.
If psychologists ruled that her cognitive ability was that of a 13-year-old, he added, she would be deemed under Germany’s age of criminal responsibility, which would lead to acquittal.
“I do not rule it out. I‘m assuming that it will end with an acquittal,” Guenal added.
After being returned to Germany, Safia S. contacted Islamic State members online and asked them to help her plan an attack, according to prosecutors.
Investigators believe the accused was radicalized in Germany by people with ties to the ultra-conservative Salafi strand of Islam. Authorities believe 820 German citizens have left to join Islamist militants fighting in Syria and Iraq.
A 20-year-old German Syrian, Mohamad K., is also standing trial in the same case. He is accused of having known of Safia’s plan to carry out the attack but not informing the police.
Reporting by Oliver Ellrodt; Writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Mark Heinrich