Monday 21 October 2019

De-radicalisation report to be studied before sentencing of man who sent funding to Islamic State terror group from Ireland

File sketch of Hassan Bal in court Sketch: Alwyn Gillespie
File sketch of Hassan Bal in court Sketch: Alwyn Gillespie

Ralph Riegel

A LENGTHY report by a German de-radicalisation expert will be studied by the prosecution and defence teams before the sentencing of a young man who admitted providing funding from Ireland for the Islamic State terrorist organisation.

Hassan Bal (26) will be sentenced before Waterford Circuit Criminal Court next Thursday, July 5.

Judge Eugene O'Kelly was told that an expert report on Mr Bal, sought by the defence and consented to by the State, will now be vital to the sentencing process.

It was confirmed that the report has been exchanged between the defence and prosecution teams.

The report will now be studied in advance of next week's sentencing hearing.

Mr Bal, who had an address at O’Connell Street in Waterford city, appeared in court wearing a white shirt and dark slacks. He did not speak during the hearing.

Mr Bal has been in custody since he was arrested by Gardaí at his rented Waterford home in April 2017.

He pleaded guilty last January to two counts relating to the funding and attempted funding of Islamic State.

Judge O’Kelly was told by Noel Whelan BL, for the State, that sentencing in the matter would take half a day.

The expert report was prepared by European expert on radicalisation, Dr Daniel Koelher of the German Institute of Radicalisation and De-Radicalisaion Studies (GIRDS).

Previously, defence counsel Giollaiosa O'Lideadha SC asked that Mr Koelher be given access to all interviews with Mr Bal and any associated documents including the Book of Evidence.

This will allow him provide a report on why Mr Bal became “associated with such activities.”

The expert will also offer his opinion on whether Mr Bal has been de-radicalised and whether he does not appear to support “terrorist organisations like Islamic State” any more.

“He has made it clear he would be providing an expert opinion to the court and is very well aware of his obligations as an expert witness to be fair and clear and to report on the basis of his primary obligations to the court,” Mr O'Lideadha said.

He stressed that his client was “very well aware” that the court would have access to Mr Koelher’s report irrespective of what the conclusions are.

Judge O'Kelly remanded Mr Bal in ongoing custody until July 5.

Noel Whelan BL, for the State, said the expert report would require some time to study.

“It’s a lengthy report,” he said.

Judge O'Kelly remanded Hassan Bal in custody, to appear again before the court next Thursday.

“We may be able to finish it and finalise it on Thursday but, if needs be, depending on the length and complexity of the report on radicalisation, it may be that I need to consider it overnight,” he said.

The accused was born in England.

However, he moved to Ireland with his family when he was 12 years old. He was initially based in Wexford before he relocated to Waterford in 2007.

Mr Bal holds an Irish passport.

At the time of his detention last year, he was training to work as an electrician.

Mr Bal is married and a previous court hearing was told his wife was expecting their first child.

His wife was similarly born in England.

Last January he admitted unlawfully providing funds, to the amount of €400, using an An Post/Western Union money transfer, in Waterford on October 2 2015 to a Stevo Maksimovic in the city of Brako in Bosnia-Herzegovina, knowing or intending that the funds would be used in whole or in part for the benefit or purposes of the terrorist group known as Islamic State or 'Daesh'.

Mr Bal also pleaded guilty to unlawfully and wilfully attempting to collect or receive cash from a person known to him as Omar Abu Aziz, by means of telephonic communications and an intermediary at an address at 2 Geron Way, London NW2 6GJ, knowing or suspecting that the funds would be used in whole or in part for the benefit or purposes of Islamic State.

The second offence involves a date of October 23 2015.

The two charges were brought contrary to section 13 (3)(a) and section 13 (4) of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act of 2005.

Mr Ó Lideadha said it was a “very unusual case."

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