Maybe it was the bombs that struck only a few yards from his home. Maybe it was the atrocities perpetrated by his fellow believers that he witnessed to day-in and day-out. Maybe it was even that Yazidi girl, hardly ten years old, who was suddenly standing in his living room. The men in the black robes had presented her to him like a piece of meat. He could keep the little girl as a sex slave.
Raqqa, Syria, in September 2015. Anil O., 21 years old, hasn’t been in the former capital of the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" (IS) four weeks, when his dreams are shattered. He had imagined life with IS to be completely different. Just, conscientious, devout. Now all he wants is to get away.
About a year later, Anil O. lands at the Düsseldorf airport. There the German Turk is taken into custody by the federal police – on the grounds of a "strong suspicion of membership in the foreign terrorist organization, the ‘Islamic State,’" as it says in the federal prosecutor’s arrest warrant. This is where the typical story could begin of the returnee, who more or less believably renounces the terrorist militia. Who is charged and sentenced and sent to jail for a couple of years. But this is a different story. For Anil O. is not just any repatriate. He knows the key figures of the German terrorist community. And he is prepared to testify against them.
Beginning this coming Monday, Anil O. will be facing the 5th criminal division of the Düsseldorf Regional Appeal Court. It is a streamlined trial, only three days of testimony have been scheduled. There is much to suggest that he will only be given a suspended sentence and will then be released into the witness protection program. For his own trial is only the prelude to a whole series of trials, in which Anil O. will appear as state’s evidence. The focus will be on three men officials consider to be IS’ key figures in Germany. Anis Amri, the Berlin Breitscheidplatz assassin, was in contact with them for months.
Anil O. grew up in Gelsenkirchen, in the northern part of the Ruhr area of North Rhine-Westphalia. He was popular, a model student, the first in his family to graduate from high school. On his 18th birthday, he married his childhood sweetheart, Emine. Love, friends, prospects – the future stood open for him.
But an acquaintance introduced Anil O. into the Salafist scene. This "we-feeling," this sense of unity, impressed him, he later told investigators from the North Rhine-Westphalia State Office of Criminal Investigation. After graduating from school, he often stood in the pedestrian zone and passed out copies of the Koran. He became involved in the project "Read!" founded by the radical Salafist preacher Ibrahim Abou-Nagie, whose organization, "The True Religion," has since been banned. Anil O. quickly rose up in the group’s hierarchy, his friends respectfully called him Amir, "commander." "I have also converted people to Islam," he said in an interrogation. The protocol has been seen by Die Zeit.
Anil had the best final exam grade in all of Gelsenkirchen, his average was 1.0, an A+. He moved with his wife and son, born since, to Aachen, and registered for Pre-Med. At the same time, he now has access to the clandestine circles of the German Islamist scene. To men who have connections to the "Islamic State’s" innermost circle.
Such as to Hassan C., a 50-year-old German Turk from Duisburg, who radicalizes young boys in a backroom of his travel agency and swears them to committing to leave Germany to go join the "Islamic State."
Or to Boban S., whom they call the Serb in the scene. A chemical engineer, in his mid-30s, who runs a "Koran school" in Dortmund, which is nothing less than a preparatory camp for potential terrorists.
And finally to Ahmad Abdulaziz Abdullah A., alias Abu Walaa, early 30s, from Hildesheim in Lower Saxony; Anil O. calls him "the highest representative of IS in Germany." "There is no official act by IS in Germany that Abu Walaa doesn’t have knowledge of," he told investigators. "His word is law." The security services consider Abu Walaa to be the head of a network that smuggles would-be emigrants into IS. Abu Walaa, Hassan C. und Boban S. are already under criminal investigation, but concrete evidence had been lacking. That is, until Anil O. started blowing the whistle on them.