BERLIN – A German court sentenced a 31-year-old Tunisian to 10 years in prison Thursday for planning a biological bomb attack with the deadly poison ricin.
Islamic State sympathizer Sief Allah H., 31, had ordered castor seeds, explosives and metal ball bearings on the internet in order to build the toxic bomb, a spokesman for the higher regional court in Duesseldorf said.
He was found guilty of producing a biological weapon and of planning a serious act of violent subversion.
His German wife, Yasmin, 43, stands accused of helping him build the bomb but she is now being tried separately after the court accused her defense lawyers of attempting to spin out the case with a 140-page statement on Thursday.
Her trial will resume on April 1.
The couple “wanted to create a climate of fear and uncertainty among the German population,” Judge Jan van Lessen was quoted by DPA as saying on Thursday.
He added that they had produced enough ricin to potentially kill up to 13,500 people.
The couple have been on trial since June last year following their arrest in 2018 by an anti-terrorist squad that found 84 milligrams of the toxin in their Cologne apartment.
The arrests likely prevented what would have been Germany’s first biological attack, said Holger Muench, head of the BKA Federal Criminal Police Office, at the time.
Federal prosecutors said the couple had “for a long time identified with the aims and values of the foreign terrorist organization Islamic State.”
They decided in 2017 to detonate an explosive in a large crowd, “to kill and wound the largest possible number of people,” prosecutors said ahead of the trial.
Produced by processing castor beans, ricin is lethal in minute doses if swallowed, inhaled or injected and 6,000 times more potent than cyanide, with no known antidote.
The pair had allegedly researched various forms of explosives before deciding on the deadly poison.
They ordered 3,300 castor beans over the internet and successfully made a small amount of ricin.
They also bought a hamster to test the potency of the poison.
The couple were caught after a tip-off from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, which had noticed the large online purchase of castor seeds, according to German media reports.
Sief Allah H. admitted to building the bomb but denied that he had planned an attack on German soil.
His defense lawyers had asked for a sentence of eight years.
“He is certainly guilty, we do not deny that,” they reportedly said.