Three men accused of terror group membership fight extradition


Three men alleged to be key members of an Isis-affiliated terror group that plotted to execute attacks across Europe and kidnap diplomats are fighting extradition from Britain.

Bakr Hamad, Zana Rahim and Awat Hamasalih held senior positions in Rawti Shax, a "trans-national, radical and fundamentalist group", whose purpose was to carry out violent acts in the West, it is claimed.

Via cells in Britain, Italy, Germany, Greece, Sweden, Finland and Norway, as well as Middle Eastern nations, it aimed to "intimidate the population and to put pressure on public powers and international organisations", according to prosecutors.

The Sunni-Kurdish group's primary objective was to overthrow the government of Kurdistan and establish a caliphate alongside Islamic State territory in Syria.

But when its leader, Mullah Krekar, was arrested and jailed in Norway in 2012, it prompted the group to draw up plans to kidnap and hold dignitaries, including the British ambassador, to barter for his release.

Hamad, 38, of Kingston-upon-Hull, Rahim, 32, of Derby and Hamasalih, 38, of Birmingham, were arrested last Thursday as part of coordinated raids across Europe led by the Italian authorities.

A total of 13 people were taken into custody in Italy, Norway and the UK as part of the investigation.

Italian prosecutors initially issued European Arrest Warrants for four individuals living in Britain, although action against one alleged member of the group was dropped.

The trio appeared in custody at Westminster Magistrates' Court where prosecutor Daniel Sternberg, representing the Italian authorities, described the alleged threat posed by the group.

He said: "The organisation aimed to establish caliphate in Iraqi Kurdistan and sought to establish cells in Europe to share and disseminate jihadi material and to participate in jihad in Iraq and Syria together with Islamic State and Al Nusra."

The organisation was structured with secrecy at its core and its members communicated online through a "virtual headquarters" called KurduIslam, the court heard.

Mr Sternberg continued: "It drew up plans to carry out violent actions against European and Western targets to intimidate the population and to put pressure on public powers and international organisations."

The organisation also helped finance fighters training with the Kurdistan Battalion in a camp on the Afghanistan-Kurdistan border destined for Syria, it was claimed.

Hamad, of All Saints Street, Kingston-upon-Hull, Rahim, of Curzon Street, Derby and Hamasalih, of Finchley Road, Birmingham, all denied consent for extradition at an earlier hearing.

The men's lawyers explained they would be challenging the extradition on grounds of "refoulment", the illegal returning of refugees. They may also invoke Article Two (right to life) and Article Three (prohibition of torture) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

A fourth man arrested last Thursday was earlier told he no longer faced action.

Sharif Kadir, of Gleadless Road, Sheffield, appeared ahead of the extradition hearing.

Mr Sternberg said a judge sitting in Trento, northern Italy, had reviewed the evidence against the 52-year-old and stayed the request before issuing documents to the National Crime Agency in Britain, the court heard.

"As far as the reasons for that are concerned there is not a great deal I can say as to why it has been withdrawn," the prosecutor said.

The hearing continues.