Berlin to prosecute German IS fighters as repatriation controversy deepens

Berlin to prosecute German IS fighters as repatriation controversy deepens
German authorities have confirmed preparations to prosecute its citizens that joined and fought for Islamic State.
2 min read
19 February, 2019
A German national who fled fighting between the SDF and IS in Baghouz [AFP/Getty Images]

Authorities in Germany are preparing to prosecute dozens of its citizens who joined Islamic State (IS), according to local media reports.

Arrest warrants have been issued for 18 of the 63 adult German citizens being held in Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Greece, said a joint report by newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and public broadcasters NDR and WDR.

With the inclusion of children, the amount of German citizens held reaches the hundreds.

Currently, there are a total of 32 preliminary court proceedings against German IS members held abroad.

The controversy over the repatriation of IS fighters reached global headlines over the weekend after United States President Donal Trump urged European nations, principally the United Kingdom, France and Germany, to take back hundreds of fighters and "put them on trial".

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have endorsed Trump's request.

Bassam Ishaq, a member of the political wing of the SDF, told The New Arab Arabic Service that states should repatriate their citizens who joined IS and have now been arrested abroad.

Abdulkarim Omar, co-chair of foreign relations in the region held by the SDF, told Reuters it will not release captured foreign fighters but called on states to take responsibility for their citizens. 800 foreign fighters are currently being held in prison, while 700 women and 1,500 children are in camps.

Confirming consultations between the US, UK and France on the issue, the German interior ministry on Monday said all German citizens who fought with IS in Syria have a fundamental right to return to Germany.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on the same day that Germany need to further investigate its legal options and the potential danger posed by those returning.

Extradition efforts are complicated by the fact that Germany has severed relations with the Syrian regime and does not recognise the Syrian Kurdish autonomous region.

"We need information, we need investigations, all that is not in place, and as long as it isn't, I think this is extraordinarily difficult to implement," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told ARD in response to President Trump on Sunday.

"The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them. The US does not want to watch as these [IS] fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go," President Trump tweeted late on Saturday.