ISIS, Al-Qaeda footage shared by Syrian men charged with terrorism acts presented in court

Documents presented in court on Thursday showed how seven Syrian men were sharing videos of ISIS and Al-Qaeda leaders more frequently in the run-up to their arrest

Seven Syrian men charged with terrorism last month had been regularly posting videos of ISIS and Al-Qaeda leaders on social media, according to documents exhibited in court.

The court hearing against the seven Syrian men continued in court on Thursday before Magistrate Nadine Lia.

Two police sergeants exhibited social media posts in court belonging to the online accounts of the accused.

These posts included videos of Jihadi fighters, ISIS leaders, and Osama bin Laden giving a speech. Other videos glorified terrorist activities, including suicide attacks.

One device analysed by a police sergeant held content on how to make car bombs, pipe bombs and other explosive weapons at home.

Many of the videos would also have Jihadi chants, or nasheeds, playing in the background.

When one of the police sergeants was cross-examined by the defence, he clarified that no explosives were found in the possession of the accused. “But it’s clear that this material was downloaded by the suspects,” he said.

The sergeant pointed out that the content and bomb-making guides made use of materials that one can find easily at home.

Enough evidence to indict the accused

Later in the sitting, the defence and prosecution made their arguments on the indictment of the accused.

Lawyer Jose Herrera, appearing as defence council, argued that the documents exhibited in court on Thursday were not even admissible as proof.

He added that Malta’s terrorism laws are based on EU directives, which specify that there should be specific intention behind the sharing of terrorist material before it can be considered a crime.

“The material shared needs to have a certain level of ‘gravitas’,” he added. “If I’m a fan of Nazism, and I share Mein Kampf on social media, it is not proof enough that I am promoting Nazism in the country.”

Herrera also pointed out that there is no proof of specific intention in the evidence submitted to the court as of yet.

Prosecution lawyer Antoine Agius Bonnici argued that publishing content glorifying terrorism is already a crime in and of itself.

“Intention comes from the type of material and the frequency of shared material. If there’s a pattern, it shows their intention,” he said, citing the EU directive.  

The magistrate then decreed that there is enough evidence prima facie to place the accused under a bill of indictment.

Police inspectors Jeffrey Cutajar and Jean Paul Attard are prosecuting, assisted by lawyers Antoine Agius Bonnici, Francesco Refalo and Rebeca Spiteri from the Office of the Attorney General.

Lawyers Jose Herrera, Alexander Scerri Herrera, Matthew Xuereb, Robert Galea and Alicia Borg are defence counsel.