The German BKA Dossier on Murat Kurnaz

By John Rosenthal, on , Trend Lines

As of 2002, Germany's Federal Office of Criminal Investigations (BKA) classified former Guantanamo inmate and current German media star, Murat Kurnaz, as a security risk. (On Kurnaz in the German media, see the accompanying article "Guantanamo Tales.") This classification was based on a series of police findings linking Kurnaz to Islamic extremist milieus in Germany: including to persons who are linked in turn to the "Hamburg Cell" that planned the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The relevant facts were presented by BKA Deputy Director Bernhard Falk in March, during hearings held before a German parliamentary committee investigating the Kurnaz case. They have been summarized in a March 22 press release issued by committee member Thomas Oppermann of the Social Democratic Party.

Despite their being made public, these facts have had astonishingly little impact on the coverage of Kurnaz's case in the German media and, in particular, on the customary depiction of Kurnaz as an "innocent" victim who, in the words of Luzia Braun of German public television ZDF, "had nothing to do with terrorism." Perhaps more astonishingly still, they have been entirely ignored by the American news media. In order to rectify the latter situation, World Politics Review here presents a complete English translation of Thomas Oppermann's summary of the contents of the BKA file on Murat Kurnaz:

The classification of Murat Kurnaz as a security risk was based on the following findings, among others:

  1. On October 3, 2001 - three weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks - Kurnaz set off to Pakistan with his friend Selcuk Bilgin, without saying goodbye to his family or informing his school. He broke off his course of studies in midstream. According to his mother, he purchased heavy boots and two pairs of binoculars immediately prior to his departure.
  2. Kurnaz's and Bilgin's airplane tickets were paid for by Sofyen Ben Amor. In a telephone conversation with the Bremen-based preacher of hate Ali Miri that was wiretapped by the police, Ben Amor described himself as a "Taliban."
  3. According to his mother, in the weeks prior to his departure, Kurnaz "was brainwashed" by Ali Miri at the Abu-Bakr Mosque in Bremen. The Bremen police continue to assume still today that Kurnaz was radicalized by Ali Miri. Also according to the assessment of both [the German foreign intelligence service] the BND and [the German domestic intelligence service] the BfV, Kurnaz's biography follows a typical path of radicalization and "awakening."
  4. Independently of one another, two direct witnesses have declared to the Bremen police that Kurnaz approved of the September 11 terrorist attacks, describing them as "God's will."
  5. On October 3, 2001, the brother of Selcuk Bilgin notified the Federal Police [which is responsible for border security in Germany] that Selcuk "is following a friend to Afghanistan, in order to fight." His later attempts to relativize this declaration have been dismissed as not credible by the police. The wife of Bilgin, moreover, has confirmed to Kurnaz's mother that Bilgin and Kurnaz wanted to go to Afghanistan.
  6. Bilgin was arrested at the airport and thus prevented from embarking on his voyage with Kurnaz. Later, in 2003, the police determined that he was continuing to try to recruit young, inexperienced Muslims for Jihad at the Abu-Bakr Mosque. Thus Ali T., who on April 25, 2003 hijacked a bus in Bremen, stated to the police that Bilgin had awakened in him the desire to become a Mujahideen through conversations and prayers and by showing him propaganda videos. According to Ali T., Bilgin promised that he would have him trained as a fighter in Pakistan or Afghanistan, just as he had done in the past with Murat Kurnaz. The training, Bilgin is reported to have said, would be financed by Al Qaida. The Bremen police thus assumed that after his failed attempt to travel with Kurnaz, Bilgin had been promoted from a prospective fighter to a "Recruiter/Logistics Specialist." 
  7. According to police investigations, there are numerous links between the Taliban Sofyen Ben Amor, who purchased Kurnaz's plane tickets, and the "Hamburg Cell" [which planned the 9/11 attacks]. Thus, for example, Ben Amor's telephone number was found in an address book that was seized during a Hamburg raid carried out as part of the Federal District Attorney's investigation against, among others, Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh in connection with the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The police have determined, moreover, that up until September 11, 2001, Sofyen Ben Amor frequently withdrew money in the vicinity of the Al-Quds Mosque in Hamburg. It was at this mosque that the "Hamburg Cell" formed around Mohammad Atta.

Finally, there are also numerous pieces of evidence in the file that indicate that Ben Amor, Bilgin, and Kurnaz have links to Mohammad Haydar Zammar, one of the most important recruiters of the "Hamburg Cell."