Germany detains ‘Bin Laden’s bodyguard’ – months after it emerged he lived there on social benefits
Identified only as Sami A., the Tunisian man has been living in the western German town of Bochum. Police detained him on Monday, German media reported, citing local officials. The arrest took place after the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) lifted a ban on his deportation, a spokesman for the Bochum city authorities said.
The German authorities are now expected to deport the Tunisian man to his country of origin. The necessary documents are now being prepared by a local visa and registration department, according to the spokesman. The man has been placed under arrest.
The move has been backed by German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who has recently taken a particularly tough stance on migration and asylum. “The BAMF has now initiated the deportation procedure against the former Osama Bin Laden’s bodyguard. I have instructed the BAMF to treat his case as a high priority matter,” the minister told the German Bild daily, adding that he would be “closely following” this case.
Sami A. hit the news in late April when German media reported that the man, who had reportedly been suspected of being a bodyguard for 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden for a number of months, lives in Germany on social benefits. In fact, he has been living in Bochum since 1997 and collecting benefits to the tune of €1,168 a month for himself, his wife and three children.
The information was revealed to the public following a question posed to the regional government in Bochum by the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. It turned out he had been known to the German security forces and authorities. During a 2005 terrorism trial in Germany, the judge said he believed witness testimony that suggested Sami A. was Bin Laden’s bodyguard. Due to security fears, Sami A. was obliged to report to the local police station daily, something he has done every day since 2006.
In 2015, a regional court found him guilty of supporting Al-Qaeda, Deutsche Welle reports. According to the ruling, the man had undergone militant training in a camp in Afghanistan and then served as a bodyguard to Bin Laden. Sami A. denied all accusations by saying he was receiving religious education in Pakistan.
Despite this, German authorities have so far failed to deport the man. In 2017, a regional court in the city of Muenster ruled that the man cannot be expelled, as he could face “torture” and “inhumane treatment” back at home.
Meanwhile, the German Der Spiegel weekly alleged in April that the man was a dangerous radical preacher. It has also been revealed that the regional interior ministry put him on a list of people who are potentially capable of committing a terrorist act.
The BAMF’s decision to lift the ban on the man’s deportation comes after the German Constitutional Court ruling that broadened the mandate of German authorities in the field. Back in May, the court ruled that foreign nationals posing a threat to public safety could be deported even to countries where they could potentially face the death penalty, although, under specific restrictions, the Berliner Morgenpost daily reported. The death sentence has not been enforced in Tunisia since 1991.
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