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Sunday, December 10, 2023 | Back issues
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Foreign fighter loses bid to prove he worked for Danish intelligence services

Ahmed Samsam hoped to reopen his case after he was found guilty of joining the Islamic State group in Syria. He said he was working as an agent for Denmark's spy services, but today the Danish Eastern High Court declined to take up his case.

COPENHAGEN (CN) — One of Denmark’s most spectacular spy court cases came to a preliminary end Wednesday, as the Eastern High Court declined to take up Ahmed Samsam’s lawsuit against the Danish domestic and foreign intelligence services.

Samsam, convicted of being an Islamic State group militant supporter, claims that he was working as an undercover spy for Denmark among fighters in Syria from 2012 to 2014, when he joined in the battle to overturn President Bashar Assad’s government.

Samsam hoped that forcing the Danish spy services to acknowledge he was an agent could reopen his 2018 Spanish National Court conviction. He was sentenced first to eight years in prison for his involvement with the Islamic rebel organization, but the sentence was later reduced to six years.

His case was rejected today, as the Danish High Court refused to test the claim that he was working under instructions of and in collaboration with the Danish domestic intelligence service, PET, and foreign intelligence service, FE.   

The court emphasized that Samsam failed to convince them of the likelihood that he could have his criminal case in Spain retried, even if he had worked for Danish authorities.

“The High Court refused to test S’s claims of collaboration, as [it] would have no effect on his legal position,” the judges wrote in a news release. In its full reasoning, the Court noted that it has a fundamental obligation to acknowledge the Spanish verdicts.

Neither Danish intelligence service has commented on Samsam’s claims that he worked for them. Instead, representatives have underlined that concerns for state security, protection of sources and foreign powers take first priority.

Today, they repeated that they are not “obliged to publicly confirm or deny our capabilities and resources,” in a written note to Danish public broadcaster DR.

Samsam was originally arrested in Spain in 2017 on charges of being a foreign fighter during Islamic State group attacks, including the battle for the government-controlled airbase Taqba outside of Raqqa in 2014. He was also found guilty of financing terrorism, obtaining firearms in Spain and promoting jihad on social media.

After his conviction, the Syrian-born Danish citizen was sent back to Denmark to serve his sentence in 2020. On several occasions, he tried unsuccessfully to convince Danish intelligence services to grant him parole or compensation. His lawyer, Erbil Kaya, initiated a trial on Aug. 24, seeking to force the intelligence services to confirm that Samsam worked for them and that they paid for his trips to Syria.

In an exclusive interview with DR from his prison cell, Samsam acknowledged that he traveled to Syria initially to become a freedom fighter in the civil war. He had a criminal record in Denmark and wanted to change his life and help his people obtain justice, Samsam said, adding that he “did not want to watch passively as my people were massacred.”

Upon his return to Denmark, he was arrested. He said police visited him and suggested a collaboration in which he would pass on names of Danish freedom fighters. In return, the intelligence services would offer unofficial support to the battle against the Syrian regime.

Samsam has denied acting on direct orders from the Islamic State group and participating in the attack on the airbase outside of Raqqa.

In Denmark, the case has generated much debate, especially after DR revealed information that could contradict key evidence given in the original Spanish case. Documents show that Samsam was pulled over by local police in Denmark on several occasions during the time period when he was supposed to be in Raqqa.

While this information was acknowledged by the Spanish Supreme Court, it did not change the trial's outcome. The process was criticized by several judicial experts in Denmark. Lasse Lund Madsen, a professor of criminal law, said to DR that the information could have given Samsam a solid alibi.

“Samsam’s explanation that he did not take part in the attack was clearly never taken seriously. The inaction of Danish authorities made his opportunity to conduct an effective defense impossible,” Madsen said.

Samsam will appeal the case to the Danish Supreme Court.

“We have nothing to lose”, Kaya said after Wednesday's verdict.

Categories / Appeals, Courts, Criminal, Government, International, Law

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