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Denmark; Lebanon: Danish National Sentenced in Lebanon for Joining ISIS

(Sept. 9, 2015) A court in Lebanon has sentenced a Danish national to three years of imprisonment for fighting on the side of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). According to the defendant’s attorney, Fawaz Zakaria, the man was convicted on charges of joining ISIS in Syria and taking part in an attack attributed to that organization in Tripoli, a city in northern Lebanon. (Erlingur Nordal, Dane Imprisoned for Fighting with Isis, ICE NEWS (Aug. 11, 2015).)

The Danish fighter, Araby Ibrahim, sometimes referred to as Araby al-Hadj Dibhad, had previously been involved with Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, Syrian groups founded in 2011 and 2012, respectively, that have fought together against the Syrian government. Ibrahim was arrested in Lebanon in June 2014. (Ali Hashem, Dane in Lebanon Arrested for Being Alleged IS Fighter, AL-MONITOR (Oct. 28, 2014); Jabhat al-Nusra, MAPPING MILITANT ORGANIZATIONS [a Stanford University project] (last updated Nov. 12, 2014); Ahrar al-Sham, MAPPING MILITANT ORGANIZATIONS (last updated Nov. 4, 2014).) He admitted fighting with ISIS but said he did not participate in the violence in Tripoli. (Nordal, supra.)

Zakaria stated of Ibrahim that “[h]e wanted to help the Syrian people get rid of the regime, he fought with several groups; … . His goal was to help the Syrian people face the regime’s crimes.” (Hashem, supra.) The lawyer went on to argue that his client was being prosecuted for fighting in Syria, while members of Hezbollah join forces with the Syrian regime without being charged in the Lebanese legal system. (Id.)

Ibrahim is the first Dane to be charged with terrorism-related offenses in Lebanon, despite the relatively large number of Danish citizens who have participated in jihadist groups. Per capita, of European nations, only Belgium has more nationals who have travelled to the Middle East to engage in combat. (Nordal, supra.) While the Danish Security and Intelligence Service estimates that 115 Danes have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight in the last five years, other observers have suggested that the number could be much higher. Allan Sorrenson, a journalist who reports on the Middle East, said that the “number is more likely to be 200 or even more … .” (Hashem, supra.)