A Czech court on Friday convicted a former Prague Muslim leader of being part of a terror group and financing terrorism, sentencing him to 10 years in prison.
Prosecutors said imam Samer Shehadeh helped his brother Omar and later his brother’s wife, Fatima Hudkova, travel to Syria to join a terror group known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.
Prosecutors also said Shehadeh sent unspecified sums of money to the group that seeks to replace the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad with an Islamic state.
Two other people in the same case were convicted of terror charges in absentia by Prague´s Municipal Court. One received a prison term of 11 years and the other person was given a term of six years.
Shehadeh didn´t deny the charges but said he didn´t consider his deeds a crime because he doesn´t recognize the Syrian government and doesn´t consider the group terrorist.
Shehadeh can still appeal the verdict.
The members of Prague´s Muslim community distanced themselves from his activities.
Czech intelligence services began investigating the trio in 2016. He left his post as imam in 2014 and was eventually expelled by the Czech Muslim community.
Shehadeh is Czech-born with Palestinian roots. Having secured a degree from the Islamic University of Medina, he took a leadership position in the Prague Islamic Centre and began preaching across the country.
Over time, Samer’s statements sparked controversy. When asked about the 9/11 attacks in 2001, he admitted that he could not condemn the deed. In 2010, he preached that “anyone following a different code of law from that set down by Mohammed is ungrateful and an apostate”. In the meantime, Samer and his followers translated a number of Arabic works into Czech, enriching the discourse with such colourful authors as Bilal Philips and Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
There are roughly 20.000 Muslims currently living in the Czech Republic, and only a minority of them are considered regular worshippers.