Report: detained German part of Hezbollah's European unit
Dec. 26, 1997
JERUSALEM (AP) _ A German accused of planning a suicide bombing in Israel belonged to a unit of would-be assailants recruited in Europe by the Islamic militant group Hezbollah, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.
The unit was established two years ago to enlist European-looking people to carry out attacks in Israel, the Yediot Ahronot daily said.
The newspaper said 26-year-old Stephan Josef Smyrek of Braunschweig, who has been held in Israel since Nov. 28, was part of that unit.
Smyrek was charged Thursday with plotting a suicide attack in Israel. However, his lawyer, Daniel Assan, said the case against him was weak.
Assan said Smyrek has been held in solitary confinement for three weeks and was not allowed to contact a lawyer or the German Embassy in Tel Aviv.
``I would say the conditions under which he was held are fertile ground for producing a false confession, either because he was forced to, because of his character or because he is one of those people who want to commit suicide or to have themselves imprisoned,'' Assan told The Associated Press.
A ban on reporting about the case was lifted Thursday, after the indictment was submitted.
Smyrek arrived in Israel in late November, after a stopover in Amsterdam where he was detained at the airport for several hours by Dutch police, Assan said. Israel radio said Smyrek was known to Interpol for ``terrorist'' connections.
Smyrek continued his flight to Israel after his release, Assan said. He was taken into custody upon his arrival.
The indictment said Smyrek converted to Islam in 1994. Two years later, he allegedly got in touch with two men in Germany who put him in contact with the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon.
In August, Smyrek traveled to Lebanon to train in the use of light arms, explosives and other weapons, the indictment said. Three months later, Smyrek came to Israel via Amsterdam, equipped with a video camera, a map of Israel and $4,000 from Hezbollah, it said.
Assan said his client ``has a link of some kind to Islam,'' but said he did not know whether he had ties to Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim group trying to drive Israeli troops out of southern Lebanon. Hezbollah's campaign has included roadside bombs and shooting ambushes.
Hezbollah has denied recruiting Smyrek.
Yediot said Israeli security officials first learned about Hezbollah's European unit during the investigation of Hussein Mikdad, a Lebanese man crippled when a bomb he was preparing exploded in a Jerusalem hotel room in April 1996.
Israeli authorities have said Mikdad, who entered Israel on a forged British passport, had planned to blow up an El Al plane.