Islamic State commander charged in Budapest, Malta witnesses questioned

Witnesses questioned in Malta and Belgium since arrest of Islamic State commander Hassan Farhoud in Hungary in March 2019

Blurred out still of the alleged IS commander Hassan F., arrested by anti-terror officers in Budapest, Hungary
Blurred out still of the alleged IS commander Hassan F., arrested by anti-terror officers in Budapest, Hungary

Hungarian prosecutors have charged a Syrian national alleged to have been a member of the Islamic State terrorist organisation with carrying out acts of terrorism and crimes against humanity.

The 27-year-old man, Hassan Farhoud, is alleged to have commanded an armed group of the Islamic State and was arrested in Hungary in March this year. He now faces a sentence of life in prison.

The prosecutors questioned Hassan Farhoud for over 29 hours since his arrest in March. Ten other people including witnesses have also been questioned in Malta and Belgium.

An investigation with the involvement of Hungary’s counter-terrorism force TEK was underway in several EU member states, including Malta, Belgium and Greece. Cooperation among the countries’ law enforcement agencies was coordinated by the Hungarian office of Eurojust.

According to the indictment, the man ordered multiple executions in his homeland in May 2015.

The Syrian was also granted refugee status in Greece before he was revealed to have been a prominent IS fighter.

He was caught with forged documents in Budapest’s Liszt Ferenc Airport 30 December 2018, then received a suspended prison sentence for human trafficking, and was set to be expelled from the country.

But it was information obtained by Belgian intelligence that ultimately led to Hassan F.’s detention, when he was arrested by TEK officers in the Nyírbátor asylum detention facility.

According to Hungarian prosecutors, the 27-year-old man is suspected of aiding in the execution of 20 people – all family members of a resident in Homs city who refused to join the Islamic State – in 2016. In addition, he allegedly appears in numerous propaganda videos and assisted in the orchestration of acts of terrorism. Under Hungarian law, the man is now suspected of murder committed as part of an act of terror and of preparations to commit an act of terror.

Farhoud is suspected of having ordered the occupation of Al-Sukhnah in the Syrian province of Homs and drawing up a “death list” of those who rejected Islamic State’s goals. The executions included the public beheading of the local imam and at least 25 people including women and children in the town. Farhoud is suspected of having personally participated in the execution of the imam and at least another two people.

The suspect’s lawyer, László Kelen, claims the evidence is unreliable at best, and references the blurry nature of the photographs in question. Kelen says the “illiterate and uneducated” Farhoud continues to voice his innocence.