STUTTGART, GERMANY – A Lebanese man admitted joining Islamic State in Syria and later returning to his home country Germany to buy military and medical supplies for the group, at the opening of his trial in Stuttgart on Wednesday.
Ismail Issa told the court he had taken up Islam to escape drug addiction and had been persuaded to take part in the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad while he was on a pilgrimage to Mecca in 2013.
“What I’ve done is absolutely disgusting. I want to settle my debt as soon as possible,” the 24-year-old added.
The security service estimates about 450 people have left Germany to join jihadist forces in Syria and 150 have returned, 25 with direct combat experience.
Governments across Europe have said they are worried about the prospect of youths getting radicalized on Syrian battlefields and coming back to launch attacks at home.
Issa’s lawyer said his client admitted the charge of membership of Islamic State and other accusations made against him in the indictment — including that he traveled to Syria in August, carried out guard duties and took part in fighting near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.
“He agrees with the events (as presented in the indictment),” lawyer Stefan Holoch told reporters.
Issa, who appeared in court clean-shaven and smartly dressed in a blue suit, is on trial alongside his 33-year-old brother, Ezzeddine I., and a German citizen of Afghan origin, 37-year-old Mohammad Sobhan A., who are both accused of supporting Islamic State and enabling violent acts.
Under the German legal system, the trial will go ahead despite an admission of guilt to let the court investigate the case and determine a sentence. The other two defendants have not commented on the charges in court.
“Issa returned to Germany with the task of buying military and medical equipment. Together with the other accused and with the financial help of his brother, he went on a shopping trip here to army surplus shops, pharmacies and other stores,” said chief prosecutor Bodo Vogler.
The group bought a vehicle, and set off for Syria in November 2013, Bogler said.
Issa and Mohammad Sobhan A. were arrested the same day at a motorway service station in the south-western state of Baden-Wuerttemberg and police found medicines, camouflage gear and night-vision equipment in the vehicle as well as €6,250 ($7,800), he added.
Issa told the court in accent-free German he wanted to return to a normal life, adding: “I want to do something good, something with people.”
He described himself as a peaceful person. “I’ve never gotten into any brawl.”