Europe

German 'Islamic State fighter' offered deal by prosecutors

Kreshnik Berisha (left) and his defence lawyer in court. Photo: 15 September 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption This is the first trial in Germany for alleged membership of Islamic State

A man on trial in Germany on charges of fighting for Islamic State militants in Syria has been offered a shorter jail term in exchange for a confession.

Prosecutors in Frankfurt also suggested the deal would include receiving full information from Kreshnik Berisha, 20, about the inner workings of the group.

They allege Mr Berisha had weapons training and combat experience with Islamic State (IS) last year.

He was arrested at Frankfurt airport last December while on his way home.

The trial - the first in Germany for alleged membership of IS - comes amid growing alarm at the potential threat posed by jihadists returning to Europe.

Reply 'by Friday'

"You're a very young man, without a significant criminal record," presiding Judge Thomas Sagebiel was quoted as saying when the trial began on Monday.

Image copyright UK Home Office / Met police
Image caption Hundreds of European citizens are thought to be fighting for IS

"We consider giving you a chance to help us exercise leniency. It mostly depends on you," he added.

Mr Berisha, who was born near Frankfurt to a family from Kosovo, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of membership of a foreign terrorist organisation.

But there were suggestions that this could be reduced to between three years and three months and four years and four months.

Mr Berisha's defence lawyer Mutlu Gunal said his client would respond to the offer by Friday, according to the AFP news agency.

The accused is alleged to have been based with IS fighters in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, where rebels are fighting against forces loyal to the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad.

Mr Berisha is said to have worked as a medic and a guard and also fought in at least three battles alongside IS rebels.

He returned home for reasons that were not immediately known in December 2013 and was arrested at Frankfurt airport.

IS is thought to have attracted hundreds of recruits from European countries in its battle to establish what it describes as a "caliphate", spanning a borderless stretch of Syria and Iraq.

Jihadist groups in Syria are thought to have attracted some 400 Islamists from Germany alone.

The US is spearheading efforts to form an international coalition against IS militants, following their seizure of several towns and cities in northern Iraq this summer.

France on Monday hosted a meeting of foreign ministers from around the world to consider how to defeat IS.

Germany announced on Friday that it would seek to prosecute anyone who tried to recruit for IS or spread the group's propaganda.

The German government also recently said it would arm Iraq's Kurds in their fight against IS.

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