Two German converts to Islam and two Turkish men were convicted Thursday over a foiled 2007 plot to attack U.S. targets in Germany and given prison sentences ranging up to 12 years.
The four men, operating as a German cell of the radical Islamic Jihad Union, had plotted bombing attacks against American citizens and facilities including the U.S. Air Force's Ramstein base in Germany, the Duesseldorf state court found.
The case "has shown with frightening clarity what acts young people who are filled with hatred, blinded and seduced by wrong-headed ideas of jihad are prepared and able to carry out," Judge Ottmar Breidling said.
Three of the defendants — Fritz Gelowicz, 30, and 24-year-old Daniel Schneider, both German converts to Islam, and Turkish citizen Adem Yilmaz, 31 — were convicted of membership in a terrorist organization, while 25-year-old Turkish citizen Attila Selek was convicted of supporting a terrorist organization.
All four also were convicted of preparing explosive devices and conspiracy to commit murder.
They had confessed during the trial, which began in April, and showed no reaction Thursday as Breidling announced the verdict in a high-security courtroom. Gelowicz and Schneider were sentenced to 12 years in prison, Yilmaz to 11 years and Selek to five.
The judge said the planned attacks could have been on a par with the 2005 London transport bombings or the 2004 Madrid train bombings.
Had they succeeded, "there would have been a terrible bloodbath with an incredibly high of number of dead and injured, above all members of the U.S. army but also civilians," Breidling said.
The defendants' goal was not only to attack Americans — for example at pubs, discos and other public places — but also to influence a German parliamentary vote in October 2007 on extending the country's military deployment in Afghanistan, the court found.
As part of the judgment, the four were also found guilty of attempting to coerce parliament.
According to the U.S. State Department, the Islamic Jihad Union was responsible for coordinated bombings outside the U.S. and Israeli embassies in July 2004 in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent.
Members have been trained in explosives by al-Qaida instructors and the group has ties to Osama bin Laden and fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar, according to the State Department.
The German cell had stockpiled 1,600 pounds of highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide, purchased from a chemical supplier and could have mixed it with other substances to make explosives equivalent to 1,200 pounds of dynamite, German officials say.
But German authorities — acting partly on U.S. intelligence — had been watching them and covertly replaced the hydrogen peroxide with a diluted substitute that could not have been used to produce a bomb.
German authorities arrested Gelowicz, Schneider and Yilmaz at a rented cottage in central Germany on Sept. 4, 2007. Turkey picked up Selek in November 2007 and later extradited him to Germany.
The court found that, while the two converts to Islam had a "barely rudimentary knowledge" of the faith, they were still willing to "serve as an angel of death for Islam."