Germans nab suspected terrorist boarding plane

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

BERLIN -- A Turkish man trying to board a flight to Iran was arrested after authorities found a holy war CD-ROM and a protective suit against biological and chemical weapons in his bag, German prosecutors said Tuesday.

Harun Aydin, 29, was arrested at Frankfurt airport on Oct. 17 after his luggage, which also contained a face mask and equipment to make a detonator, was searched before he boarded a plane to Tehran. His lawyer said the bag and the equipment did not belong to Aydin.

The federal prosecutor's office said it was investigating Aydin on suspicion he planned "serious acts of violence as a member of a terrorist group with an Islamic fundamentalist background."

Spokeswoman Frauke Scheuten said that "so far, no connection is discernible" between Aydin and the investigation of a Hamburg terrorist cell that included three of the suicide hijackers involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Scheuten also announced the arrest of another person in southern Germany on espionage charges. She gave no further details.

Leading member of group

Aydin was described by prosecutors as a leading member of a militant Turkish group headed by his brother-in-law, Muhammed Metin Kaplan.

Turkish authorities suspect Kaplan was behind a thwarted plot to crash a plane, laden with bombs, into the mausoleum of Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, during the country's 75th anniversary celebrations on Oct. 29, 1998.

Kaplan is serving a four-year German jail term for incitement to kill a rival. The organization has long been under observation and listed as an extremist group by Germany's domestic security agency.

Aydin was a co-defendant in Kaplan's trial last year in Duesseldorf where he was acquitted for lack of evidence.

Prosecutors said the CD-ROM found in Aydin's luggage contained "detailed instructions" for fighting an Islamic holy war. The federal prosecutor's office said he is suspected of issuing instructions to carrying out crimes "such as murder and man-slaughter."

Aydin's lawyer, Michael Murat Sertzos, said his client opposes violence against innocent people and that Aydin was traveling to Tehran in preparation for a book fair.

"He had no intention whatever of dying a martyr's death," Sertzos said.

German authorities, together with FBI agents working in the country, have been investigating the movements of the Hamburg cell the suspected hijackers operated in.

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