Prague, Czech Republic – Former Prague Imam Samer Shehadeh, arrested in 2018 for promoting and funding terrorist organizations, admitted on Tuesday helping both his brother and sister-in-law travel to Syria to join the jihadist group Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, otherwise known as the al-Nusra Front.
According to the prosecutors, Samer Shehadeh had helped his brother, Omar, go to Syria in November 2016, providing him info, contacts, travel details and money to take part in the civil war and conflict waged against the Syrian government. He later married his brother with Fatima Hudkova over the internet, and helped her join her new husband in Syria.
“I’m proud of it. I have nothing to be ashamed of”, he told the court on Tuesday, claiming that the government in Damascus isn’t the legitimate representative of the Syrian nation and that it was his duty to help other Muslims.
Although admitting to his involvement to the Municipal Court in Prague, the former head of the Czech capital’s Muslim community said he didn’t see his actions as criminal or unlawful, as he does not see Jabhat Fatah as-Sham as a terrorist organization.
He further claimed that he didn’t recognize any decision of Czech courts since they didn’t fall under the jurisdiction of Islamic sharia law.
Under investigation by Czech intelligence services since 2016, Samer Shehadeh, Omar Shehadeh and Fatima Hudkova were charged with promoting terrorism. Arrested in Jordan in November 2018, Shehadeh, a 36-year-old Czech-born cleric of Palestinian descent who studied in Saudi Arabia, is also accused of using charity money to fund and support terrorist organizations. He could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
The jihadist group of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S., Iran, Russia, the U.K., France and Turkey, among others, has been on the front-line of the Syrian civil war, which has forced nearly 6 million Syrians to flee abroad and caused the death of at least 380,000 since the start of the nine-year conflict.