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Man handed 10 year jail term for biological bomb plot in Germany

A German court sentenced a 31-year-old Tunisian to 10 years in prison Thursday for planning a biological bomb attack with the deadly poison ricin.

Man handed 10 year jail term for biological bomb plot in Germany
Sief Allah H. on trial in Cologne in June 2019. Photo: DPA

Islamic State sympathiser Sief Allah H., 31, had ordered castor seeds, explosives and metal ball bearings on the internet in order to build the toxic bomb, a spokesman for the higher regional court in Düsseldorf said.

He was found guilty of producing a biological weapon and of planning a serious act of violent subversion.

His German wife Yasmin, 43, stands accused of helping him build the bomb but she is now being tried separately after the court accused her defence lawyers of attempting to spin out the case with a 140-page statement on Thursday.

READ ALSO: Cologne couple in court over 'biological bomb plot'

Her trial will resume on April 1st.

The couple “wanted to create a climate of fear and uncertainty among the German population,” judge Jan van Lessen was quoted by DPA as saying on Thursday.

He added that they had produced enough ricin to potentially kill up to 13,500 people.

The couple have been on trial since June last year following their arrest in 2018 by an anti-terrorist squad that found 84 milligrammes of the toxin in their Cologne apartment.

The arrests likely prevented what would have been Germany's first biological attack, said Holger Münch, head of the BKA Federal Criminal Police Office, at the time.

Federal prosecutors said the couple had “for a long time identified with the aims and values of the foreign terrorist organisation Islamic State”.

They decided in 2017 to detonate an explosive in a large crowd, “to kill and wound the largest possible number of people,” prosecutors said ahead of the trial.

Produced by processing castor beans, ricin is lethal in minute doses if swallowed, inhaled or injected and 6,000 times more potent than cyanide, with no known antidote.

The pair had allegedly researched various forms of explosives before deciding on the deadly poison.

READ ALSO: Tunisian man held in Cologne 'sought to build biological weapon'

They ordered 3,300 castor beans over the internet and successfully made a small amount of ricin.

They also bought a hamster to test the potency of the poison.

The couple were caught after a tip-off from the US Central Intelligence Agency, which had noticed the large online purchase of castor seeds, according to German media reports.

Sief Allah H. admitted to building the bomb but denied that he had planned an attack on German soil.

His defence lawyers had asked for a sentence of eight years.

“He is certainly guilty, we do not deny that,” they reportedly said.

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BREAKING

Swedish prosecutors upgrade Almedalen knife attack to terror crime

Prosecutors in Sweden are now treating the murder at the Almedalen political festival as a terror crime, with the country's Säpo security police taking over the investigation.

Swedish prosecutors upgrade Almedalen knife attack to terror crime

In a press release issued on Monday evening, the Swedish Prosecution Authority, said that the 32-year-old attacker, Theodor Engström, was now suspected of the crime of “terrorism through murder”, and also “preparation for a terror crime through preparation for murder”. 

Engström stabbed the psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren last Wednesday as she was on her way to moderate a seminar at the Almedalen political festival on the island of Gotland. 

Although he was a former member of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement, police said his motive seemed to be to protest against Sweden’s psychiatry services, who he felt had treated his own mental illness badly. 

The release gave no details as to why the 32-year-old was now being investigated for a more serious crime, but terror expert Magnus Ranstorp told the Expressen newspaper that the shift indicated that police had uncovered new evidence. 

READ ALSO: What do we now know about the Almedalen knife attack? 

“The new crime classification means that they’ve either found a political motive for the attack which meets the threshold for terrorism, and that might be a political motive for murdering Ing-Marie Wieselgren,” he said. “Or they might have discovered that he was scouting out a politician, or another target that could be considered political.” 

Engström’s defence lawyer said last week that his client, who he described as disturbed and incoherent, had spoken in police interrogations of having “a higher-up target”. 

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