Prague, Czech Republic

Muslim radicals grew up in a secular family in the Czech Republic, says brother

Former Prague imam Samer Shehadeh, who is charged with support for terrorism, was born in the Czech Republic and celebrated Christmas, says brother

Prague, Jan 8 (CTK) – Former Prague imam Samer Shehadeh and his brother Omar, who are charged with support for terrorism, were born in the Czech Republic and their Lebanese mother and Palestinian father raised them in a secular family environment, their brother Abdullah told a Prague court today.

Samer Shehadeh was accused of supporting terrorism two years ago after his brother Omar left the Czech Republic for Syria, where he joined the fights on the side of a local sister organisation of Al-Qaeda.

Abdullah, who came to Prague from Ireland to testify, told the Prague Municipal Court that his family did not practice or follow Islam. He said the family celebrated Christmas, watched fairy tales on television and listened to music. After the parents divorced, the father moved to Jordan, he said.

He said the fact that Samer and Omar turned to radical Islam was a big disappointment for their father and mother. Both parents died last year, he added.

Samer is 36 years old, Abdullah 34 and Omar 28.

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He said he was in contact with neither Samer nor Omar. He said he communicated with Omar half a year ago after their father died.

Abdullah said Samer started showing interest in Islam when he was about 18 years old and he then left for Saudi Arabia where he studied religion. Omar got radical in Britain where he studied.

He said nobody in the family except for Samer knew that Omar was leaving for Syria. He said Omar sent a letter telling his mother that he was in Syria only several days after he left.

Abdullah told the court that Omar made no secret of that he joined the terrorist organisation Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (Front for the Conquest of Syria), a successor to an-Nusra. He said he believes nobody can persuade Omar or Samer that what they do is not good.

Abdullah said Omar later wrote to their mother that he left Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and taught English in Syria. He said Omar seemed to dislike it that the organisation was not only religious but also political.

He said Omar is alive as he communicates via the Internet application Telegram.

Abdullah said he does not know Omar’s Czech wife Fatima (formerly Kristyna) Hudkova who is suspected of supporting terrorism as well.

Omar reached Syria in November 2016, was trained in handling arms and explosives and underwent a combat tactic course. Jabhat Fateh al-Sham then assigned him to train further fighters. Samer later married Omar online with Hudkova and helped her reunite with her husband in Syria, where she provided him with material and moral support and joined him in combat training. She presented herself as a mujahid and a terrorist.

A man who was Hudkova’s husband for two years under the Shariah law also testified in court today. He said she had great psychological problems, had a dismal family background and wanted to leave the Czech Republic at any cost.

Hudkova, Samer and Omar Shehadeh face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty of terrorism support. Omar and Hudkova have been prosecuted as fugitives. Samer has been in custody since late 2018. He was caught in Jordan, where he left because he knew that prosecution was going to be launched against him in Prague.

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The trial takes place under strict security measures. Samer was escorted to the courtroom by armed and masked wardens who guarded him during the trial today, like on Tuesday.

The trial will continue on February 10.

On Tuesday, Samer confessed that he helped Omar and Fatima leave Czechia and join Jabhat Fateh al-Sham in Syria. Samer said he is proud of this and has nothing to be ashamed of. He is suspected of having helped Omar actively join the armed rebellion against the Syrian government.

Samer said Muslims have the right to fight for Islamic law to be applied in their country. He said the Czech court verdict is unimportant to him since the courts do not decide based on the Sharia law.

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