Denmark Tries Returned Jihadist for High Treason in Historic Case.
Should 29-year-old Ahmed El-Haj be found guilty, he would become the first Danish citizen brought to justice for high treason in over 70 years, since Nazi collaborators were tried in the aftermath of World War II.
Ahmed El-Haj, a 29-year-old Danish citizen-turned-jihadist has been arrested for high treason, the newspaper Berlingske reported.
El-Haj went to Syria in 2013. After four years in war-torn Syria, the man was wounded in a bomb attack. With the help of smugglers, he managed to get to Turkey with his wife and two children. Once in Turkey, he was arrested and served a year in prison for joining terrorists and extradited to Denmark two years later.
The 29-year-old was previously suspected of terrorist crimes and used photographs of Danish politicians Naser Khader and Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, and the anti-Islamic debater Lars Hedegaard as “enemies of Islam” in a video that surfaced later.
Wheelchair-bound El-Haj initially avoided new charges upon arrival in Denmark due to double jeopardy. However, the prosecution later pulled a historic clause out of its sleeve, accusing him of high treason due to legislation introduced in 2015. Now, El-Haj may become the first in Denmark to be prosecuted for treason in over 70 years, since the Danish collaborators with Hitler’s Nazi Germany were tried, and his case may set a precedent.
According to Jørn Vestergaard, a professor of criminal law at the University of Copenhagen, the charges against El-Haj place him “in a very serious category”. He pointed out that “participation in hostilities” is a broad concept that includes not only the use of weapons, but also the collection of intelligence, the transport of combatants or weapons and ammunition.
The 14 Daesh* returnees who have been prosecuted and convicted in Denmark since 2015 received between three and six years in prison, with the law having no retroactive effect. El-Haj’s case is different as he apparently stayed with Daesh until 2017. He is now facing a life sentence.
In an interview with Weekendavisen, Ahmed El-Haj said that he regretted his time in Daesh and that he was now struggling to create a new future in Denmark for himself and his family, assuring he is not a threat to anyone in Denmark. He also stressed that his sole purpose of travelling to the Middle East was to “help remove the oppression of the Syrian regime”.
Ahmed El-Haj was born and raised in the Gellerupparken district of Aarhus and was a member of the notorious Grimhøj Mosque that produced a number of jihadists.
In the latest assessment of the terrorist threat against Denmark from March 2020, the Police Intelligence Service (PET) suggested that “at least 159 people” left Denmark for Syria/Iraq to join militant Islamist groups. Almost half of these have since returned to Denmark or settled in other European countries. According to PET, about a third of those who left died in the conflict zone. Some 34 adults from Denmark remain in Syria/Iraq.
* Daesh (ISIS, ISIL, “Islamic State”) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia and others