Making a Case for Going to Court: Militant Islamism in Denmark

Article excerpt

Militant Islamism in Denmark is, like in most Western countries, a fluid and unorganised phenomenon that is not easily defined or delimited. There are no organisations, spokespersons or declared leaders and no membership. The phenomenon can best be described as an environment from which smaller groups that have engaged in terrorism or terrorism-related activities have emerged but to which different individuals are attracted for different reasons.1 Adopting a strategy of targeting leaders in one way or another in order to prevent or counter-terrorism emanating from the environment would therefore prove difficult.

There are, however, individuals in the environment who have indispensable talents or resources and who therefore play key roles when terrorism occurs. Such individuals may be in contact with more organised peers in conflict areas and therefore be able to facilitate engagement in combat or training, or they may have access to and experience with weapons, be skilled at fundraising or are charismatic and particularly good at propagandising and disseminating justifications for using violence.

This article argues that there is potential in adopting a strategy of targeting such individuals for legal prosecution but not necessarily under terrorism legislation. It argues that an approach relying on pretextual prosecutions could be effective and possibly have fewer counterproductive side effects than prosecutions under terrorism legislation. This is done by first drawing a picture of the militant Islamist environment in Denmark and secondly suggesting a path for implementing such a strategy, introducing the challenges and potential pitfalls associated with it. To introduce the Danish situation, a list of plots that have led to convictions under Danish legislation is initially provided with indications of how they were discovered.2

Plots

In October 2005, several individuals were arrested in the Greater Copenhagen area. In Denmark, the case was labelled the Glostrup case, but elsewhere it is referred to as the Sarajevo case, because the Danish arrests followed arrests made in Sarajevo. There, a Swedish citizen, a Turkish citizen with residence in Denmark and two Bosnian citizens were arrested on suspicion of planning terrorism. Three of them were later convicted of planning terrorism, while the fourth was convicted of illegal trade in arms. The two men from Denmark and Sweden had been in contact with various individuals in Denmark, and of those arrested in Denmark in October 2005, four were subsequently charged with planning terrorism against unspecified targets. In February 2007, one of them, Abdul Basit Abu-Lifa, was found guilty.

In September 2005, Said Mansour, who had attracted the authorities' attention since the 1990s because of his international contacts and his publishing house, Al-Nur Islamic Information,3 was arrested. Among other things, Mansour was linked to the Glostrup case, and this connection played a significant role in both cases. In April 2007, he was convicted of encouraging others to commit terrorism.

In September 2006, several individuals were arrested in Odense, in what became known as the Vollsmose case. The authorities had received information from an informant turned agent that a group was preparing an attack and had manufactured the explosive TATP. In November 2007, Abdallah Andersen, Ahmed Khaldahi and Mohammed Zaher were found guilty of attempted terrorism against unspecified targets.

In September 2007, several individuals were arrested in the Greater Copenhagen area. In Denmark, the case became known as the Glasvej case but elsewhere it is referred to as Operation Dagger. Danish authorities were warned by foreign authorities when Hammad Khurshid returned from Pakistan after receiving training in spring 2007. Khurshid was put under surveillance and was among other things filmed while manufacturing the explosive TATP. In October 2008, Hammad Khurshid and Abdulghani Tokhi were found guilty of attempted terrorism against unspecified targets. …