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First accused appears in Helsinki court over Syria-linked terrorism crimes

The first of three Finnish citizens appeared in court Tuesday to answer charges of plotting to participate in the conflict in Syria as a foreign fighter.

Raqqa Syyria.

A 33-year-old man appeared in the Helsinki District Court on Tuesday morning on charges of plotting crimes with a terrorist intent and was due to give testimony.

The man is one of three accused charged with the offences. According to the district prosecutor, the man and two others plotted to join the ranks of terrorist groups fighting in Syria.

One of the 33-year-olds has also been charged with providing training for committing terrorist acts. Another, who is 37, has been charged with recruiting others for the purpose of committing terrorist crimes. All of the men deny the charges.

The main hearing in the case began on Friday. The prosecution charged that in the spring of 2013, the men acquired items such as camouflage and other garments intended for military use, sniper clothing, gun cases, bullet-proof vests and different kinds of technical equipment.

The prosecutor told the court that some of the men received arms training in Georgia. The prosecution is calling for prison sentences ranging from 18 months to two years.

Fourth suspect remanded in absentia

According to accounts from two of the men, they never made it as far as Syria. The prosecutor said that they were unable to implement their plans because their local contact in Syria died in battle about a week before their proposed arrival in the country.

In a written statement, one of the defendants said that he went to Syria to get involved in charity work.

The prosecution told the court that the company involved a fourth man who also went to Syria. He had been remanded in custody in absentia.

According to the prosecutor, the fourth suspect is one of the central figures in the plot and according to his Twitter account, is still in Syria. The Finnish news agency STT said that it had verified from two different sources that the account does in fact belong to the suspect.

Security officials: 80 foreign fighters from Finland

Finnish security officials have reckoned that that roughly 80 people have left the country to become foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq. However the actual figure may be even higher.

The Finnish security and intelligence police Supo says that the majority of foreign fighters who have left Finland have joined the ranks of the extremist group Islamic State.

In 2016 Finnish lawmakers amended existing legislation to criminalise travelling to a conflict area with a terrorist intent.

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