Abu Khuder (also known as Ahmad al Khedr) has lived in the Netherlands since 2014. He was granted temporary asylum after fleeing Syria.
According to an interview he gave to the newspaper The Guardian in 2012, Khuder had been an officer in a Syrian border force known as the Camel Corps when the conflict erupted in 2011, prompting him to join the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in its fight against the Assad regime. The same article states that Khuder subsequently became disillusioned with the FSA’s disorganization and lack of success.
He allegedly radicalized and joined Jabhat al-Nusra, a group previously linked to al-Qaeda, after members of that organization helped them attack an army base in the eastern city of Mohassan, driving out the government forces. He then reportedly rose to command a Jabhat al-Nusra battalion known as Ghuraba’a Mohassan (Strangers of Mohassan). In this capacity, Khuder allegedly participated in the execution of a captured Syrian lieutenant colonel in July 2012. Khuder denies the charges, maintaining that he lied to the Guardian journalist regarding his membership in Jabhat al-Nusra and that he, while present at the site of the killing, was not involved in the ocer’s execution.
According to the announcement by the Dutch federal prosecutor on May 21, Abu Khuder was arrested in Kapelle in the southwestern Netherlands. Police searched his house and sequestered documents, his computer and a smartphone. The house of a man in Ede who has been allegedly in touch with the suspect, has been searched, too.
Abu Khuder was arrested because of information provided by German police. In Germany, six homes belonging to suspected members of the same battalion were raided in a simultaneous, coordinated action. German police “provided witness testimonies against the suspect,” the Dutch prosecutor said.
Abu Khuder was brought before an examining judge in The Hague on 24 May 2019 and remains in custody.
In addition to the claims concerning his membership in a terrorist organization, he is also suspected of a war crime of murder of a Syrian lieutenant colonel in July 2012.
Abu Khuder remained in detention in 2020. His request to be released due to the illness of his daughter was rejected. He was, however, allowed to visit his family every three to four weeks, accompanied by prison guards.
On 16 July 2021, Khuder was found guilty of a war crime for his involvement in the execution of a prisoner hors de combat. He was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. The Court found that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that Khuder was a member of Jabhat al-Nusra. Both Khuder and the prosecution filed an appeal against the judgment.
The action is part of a response to the increasing level of home-grown radicalism in the Netherlands, a second case prosecuted on the basis of universal jurisdiction there which is linked to Syria.