Terror trial begins: four men stand accused of German terror plot

Germany on Wednesday kicked off the country’s biggest terror trial since the 9/11 attacks. Four men accused of plotting to carry out bomb attacks on targets across Germany are the focus of a high-profile case expected to last up to two years. Under tight security, four men aged between 23 and 30 took to the dock on Wednesday in Düsseldorf to answer accusations of plotting a spate of bombings in discos, restaurants, airports, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office and US army installations. The alleged plot, which was in its final stages when it was thwarted by police in September 2007, would have been the most destructive in Germany’s postwar history. Sitting behind panes of bulletproof glass, the suspects being tried — Fritz Gelowicz, Adem Yilmaz, Daniel Schneider and Atilla Selek — face charges of conspiring to commit murder, plotting to launch explosive attacks and membership in a terrorist organization, the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU). The men have remained silent since their arrest 18 months ago. Police detained three of the so-called “Sauerland cell” members during a sweep on a holiday home in a quiet village in the Sauerland region in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The raid was Germany’s biggest anti-terror operation to date. Police said they had been tracking the terror cell for months but stormed the cottage when it appeared that the suspects were nearly ready to strike. They are accused of having turned the unassuming holiday cottage into a bomb-making base. Among the evidence, police impounded hydrogen peroxide-based liquid explosives more potent than those used in the 2004 Madrid bombings or the 2005 attack in London.