Former member of the Hofstad group and convicted terrorist Samir A. has helped at least twelve women escape from IS camps in Syria, according to the Public Prosecution Service. The man is said to have supported a total of fourteen women, of which at least twelve are on the national terrorism sanction list.
A. does not deny having supported the women financially, but sees this itself as emergency aid. His lawyer Tamara Buruma points out in the court of Rotterdam on Thursday that the only way for the women to escape IS is help from smugglers.
The Dutch government has announced that it will not pick up women and their children from the prison camps in Syria. They prefer to see people tried there.
A. himself says that he only provided the women with life money. “The large amounts went to the smugglers,” said the suspect.
Women’s assets were frozen
The public prosecutor says that the women are, or were, on the sanction list because they were allegedly involved in terrorist activities. That is why their assets have also been frozen and the financial support of A. can be characterized as financing terrorism.
“Samir A. played a crucial role in the escapes,” said the OM. “He is part of an international network of smugglers and his actions keep these women out of sight of governments and allow them to return unseen to their countries of origin or move freely in Syria and rejoin IS.”
According to the OM, some of the women have moved to Idlib, where many IS fighters are still located. In addition, not a single woman has returned to the Netherlands, so emergency aid “as outlined by the defense is out of the question.”
Man already told about financial aid in 2019
Buruma told the court that her client already had some interviews in which he admits to raising money to help the women and children in the camps. At the time, the lawyer says he voluntarily contacted the Public Prosecution Service to bring this to the attention.
A. was one of the leaders of the so-called Hofstad group, whose members were convicted in 2006 for preparing attacks on politicians and the office of the secret service AIVD. The man was sentenced to nine years in prison and was provisionally released in 2013.
The court, which said it was aware of the dire situation in the camps and spoke of a “matter of principle”, did decide that A. would remain in prison until the next hearing on December 15.