Sunday 30 April 2017

'My brother is no angel and should turn himself in to police'

The sister of fugitive Tunisian extremist suspected in Berlin’s deadly Christmas market attack, Najoua Amri, talks to media about her brother, Anis Amri, Tunisia. Photo: AP/Riadh Dridi
The sister of fugitive Tunisian extremist suspected in Berlin’s deadly Christmas market attack, Najoua Amri, talks to media about her brother, Anis Amri, Tunisia. Photo: AP/Riadh Dridi

Massinissa Benlakehal

The prime suspect in the Berlin terror attack showed off the twinkling Christmas lights of Berlin to his sister via a video phone call just weeks before he allegedly went on to kill 12 people in a market truck rampage, his family said.

Anis Amri (24), who left Tunisia in 2011 to escape a jail sentence for vehicle theft, wandered through the city's streets talking to his sister, Najwa, late one evening in November.

"He said he had parked his bike somewhere and was walking around saying, 'let me show you the lights in the streets that people put up for Christmas', then he just said, 'let's talk later, I can't find my bike anymore'," she said.

Najwa, who is a lawyer, added that she didn't believe her brother could be responsible for the attack, but appealed for him to give himself up to police "guilty or not". His family explained that Amri had been sentenced in absentia to five years in prison for stealing a truck in the coastal city of Gabes in March 2011. His family maintain he was innocent.

He fled to Europe in February 2011, crossing the Mediterranean on a migrant boat, landing first in Lampedusa. A friend, who asked not to be named, said that on the day that Amri left port two boats had departed for Italy but the first had capsized drowning everyone aboard. But the second boat, carrying Amri, made it safely to Italy.

Amri is the youngest son of nine siblings and grew up in poverty in Oueslatia, a small town 200km from the capital of Tunis. One of Tunisia's poorest towns, Oueslatia has high youth unemployment.

Amri's mother, Nour El Houda Hassani, said she talked to her son last Sunday. He had asked her to try to resolve his problem with the Tunisian police and hire a lawyer to handle his case so he could return to Tunisia.

His sister Najwa said the family has "nothing to do with terrorism" but acknowledged Amri "is no angel".

The family produced letters from Amri written from prison in Italy after he was jailed for four years for an arson attack on a migrant holding centre. At one point, he sends his love to his father and asks his parents to "forgive me, and all the problems I have caused".

His record in Italian jail was a litany of petty offences, including violence and intimidation of fellow inmates, according to a report by the Italian news agency ANSA, although authorities said there was no evidence so far of Islamic radicalisation during his prison term.

Telegraph.co.uk

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