The trial of three French men accused of attempting to travel to Syria to join jihadists fighting in the country began in Paris on Thursday.
Youssef Ettaoujar, 26, Salah-Eddine Gourmat, 24, and 21-year-old Fares Farsi wanted to go to Syria to procure weapons, undergo military training, and go into combat, prosecutors claim.
They say the men, who all lived with their parents in the Paris area, had planned to travel to a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey to make contacts before then travelling on to Syria.
However, police had placed them under surveillance and the three were arrested in May 2012 at an airport near Saint-Etienne as they attempted to board a flight to Turkey.
All three are charged with “criminal association in relation to a terrorist organisation”, with the trial expected to last two days.
Prosecutors say the case against the men is based on numerous wire taps, the men’s purchase of combat equipment such as tactical vests and gun holsters, and on searches of their computers and mobile phones.
700 French nationals fighting in Syria
Of the three, only Farsi admits to jihadist intentions, but claims he wanted to abort the plan following the March 2012 Toulouse terrorist attack by radical Islamist Mohamed Merah, who shot dead three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers.
Farsi said that he believed “a combatant of God cannot kill children”, but that he decided to stay with the group for fear of being declared an “apostate” by Ettaoujar, believed to be the group’s leader.
Ettaoujar and Gourmat have both said they had wanted to travel to Syria not to fight but to film a report.
Farsi claims though that cameras found in the men’s possession were there to film their jihadist experiences to encourage other French youth to follow their example, while also acting as an alibi at border crossings.
A number of French nationals, estimated to be as many as 700 by Interior Minister Manuel Valls, are already believed to be fighting in Syria.
On Wednesday, two French teens from the south western city of Toulouse were taken into custody having also been caught attempting to travel to Syria to fight alongside jihadists battling the country’s president Bashar al-Assad.
Date created : 2014-01-30