When police arrested Jalal J. in the early hours of January 8, he was wearing only his boxers and a T-shirt. The investigators who dragged the 25-year-old out of his older brother's apartment in Castrop-Rauxel have gas masks over their faces and yellow protective suits under their bulletproof vests.
At this point, they believe that Iranian citizens Jalal J. and Monir J. planned to carry out an attack using the toxins ricin and cyanide. They suspect the brothers of having joined the Islamic State (IS). The tip came from the FBI. The US authority had read telegram chats. The corresponding IP address led the German investigators to Castrop-Rauxel.
Around five weeks after the arrest, however, the facts are still opaque. Monir J. has since been released from custody. Security circles have heard that he may have been wrongly targeted by investigators because his younger brother had used his internet connection. Nevertheless, the public prosecutor's office tried to take action against the release - and received a slap in front of the Dortmund district court on Tuesday. There is no urgent suspicion against the man given the current evidence.
The focus is now on younger brother Jalal. But the investigations against him are difficult. We are talking about "mishaps" - for example when searching the apartment. Several times - at least four cases are mentioned - police officers had to move in to comb through the living quarters. Because the first few times there were obviously omissions. Once, the "Spiegel" reported, police officers recorded a laptop in the search report, but did not take it with them. A suspicious item that Monir J. stored in his oven was only discovered the fourth time.
Safety sources say the equipment could be a gas release device. Marco Ostmeyer, Jalal J.'s lawyer, thinks that's far-fetched. The items confiscated by investigators included items such as a hexagonal mason jar, he told WELT. The device from the oven could turn out to be an opium pipe, but does not belong to his client.
He also considers the fact that small amounts of chemical substances were found to be of little significance. "The substances that were found with my client were mostly completely household," said Ostmeyer.
The Attorney General's Office apparently sees it completely differently. Because the finds are said to be substances that are used to produce cyanide. J. has already ordered the last necessary component, iron powder, online. To make matters worse: J. called up instructions for the production of the poison on a page that the investigators attribute to IS.
So was an attack imminent? The case, at least at first glance, brings back dark memories. In June 2018, the police found tools for building a biological weapon on a Tunisian Islamist in Cologne. He, too, is said to have been instructed by IS backers in the construction of the ricin bomb. Mathematically, the amount of ricin would have been enough to kill more than 10,000 people, said an expert from the Robert Koch Institute at the time.
Attorney Ostmeyer sees the facts differently in the Castrop-Rauxel case. "My client is said to have essentially accessed freely available instructions on the Internet for the production of cyanide and ricin, which in my understanding are completely unsuitable for actually producing biological weapons," he said. And there is no motive either. "There is absolutely no evidence that my client has become politically or religiously radicalized," says Ostmeyer.
In fact, investigators have long puzzled over the brothers. A lot of things about the case are unusual.
The initial surprise was that the IS is a Sunni jihadist organization. Iran, on the other hand, is predominantly Shia, so it adheres to the second major current of Islam. According to WELT information, Monir J. also stated to the immigration authorities that he had converted to Christianity before fleeing to Germany in November 2015. Photos on social media show him wearing a cross necklace that would match his Christian faith.
Jalal J. does not appear – at least at first glance – to be someone who adheres strictly to Muslim rules of conduct. He was most recently in therapy for alcohol addiction. J., who was known to the authorities under eleven different aliases according to WELT information, was sentenced to seven years in prison by the Dortmund Regional Court in spring 2019 for attempted murder. J. had - apparently out of frustration - thrown a branch from a motorway bridge and hit the windshield of a car. The driver was in shock. J. had previously been thrown out of a bus for drinking alcohol. J. had previously been investigated several times for damage to property and resistance to law enforcement officials. But is he an Islamist?
Even before his arrival in Germany, J. was involved in a political movement in the Iranian region of Khuzestan, according to WELT information. J. was born in Ahwaz. This is in eastern Iran on the border with Iraq. Here the people are predominantly Arabs and Sunnis. There are great reservations about the government in Tehran. Organizations have been founded that fight more or less militantly for independence. The best known is called the Arab Struggle for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA). J. is apparently one of her supporters. Videos available to WELT show J. 2017 and 2018 at demonstrations in Berlin. J. gives a speech. Beside him, protesters hold the flag of the independent Ahwaz.
In 2018, J. attended a vocational school in Castrop-Rauxel and wanted to graduate from secondary school. He gave an interview to a local newspaper at the time. “The Persians who came from Tehran are working in our country. But we Arabs are not allowed to work. This is my country! This is my people! I want to work there but I can't. We can't speak our minds, then we'll be put in jail," J. complained. The journalist J. spoke to speculated at the time: The young man could be in danger. Because a few months earlier, a leader of the ASMLA, which is considered a terrorist organization in Iran, was shot dead in The Hague. The Dutch police had previously received several warnings that the Iranian state was after the man.
Did J.'s rejection of a terror regime lure another extremist group? So far this is nothing more than a thesis.
In the spring of 2019, a local journalist once again visited the integration class in Castrop-Rauxel that J. had attended. But he was already in custody at the time because of the branch throwing. You don't know what's going on with J., his teacher said. At some point, police officers would have taken the young man away from the school premises.