German accused of fighting for Islamic State to be sentenced

German alleged jihadist Kreshnik B (R) listens to his lawyer Mutlu Guenal (L) as he arrives at the higher regional court in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany.

FRANKFURT - Judges will give their verdict on Friday and sentence a 20-year-old German accused of fighting for Islamic State in Syria in the first case of its kind in Germany, where dozens of suspected home-grown jihadis are awaiting trial.

Prosecutors are asking for a jail term of four years and three months for the man, known only as Kreshnik B., who was born in Germany to Kosovan parents. They say he spent six months in Syria last year fighting and being trained by the insurgents.

His lawyer says he went to Syria to help support Syrians trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad and has asked judges for a maximum term of three years and three months.

Judges in the months-long trial have indicated that they may show leniency if he cooperates with authorities.

Islamic State militants have captured large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, beheaded Western prisoners, killed many non-Sunni Muslims and declared a caliphate governed by sharia law in the heart of the Middle East.

Thousands of Western volunteers have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join militant groups, raising fears in Europe and the United States of attacks by returning fighters, and authorities are cracking down on them and on fundraisers and recruiters.

About 550 German citizens have joined Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and about 60 have been killed, some as suicide bombers, authorities say. Some 180 are believed to have returned to Germany. Prosecutors are investigating about 300 others.

French judges last month sentenced a returning jihadi to seven years in prison, in the first verdict of its kind there, even though he spent only 10 days in Syria and did not fight.

Britain has sentenced two brothers to four and three-and-a-half year prison terms for attending training in Syria.

Some politicians and legal experts have argued that tough sentences may only build resentment and say more deradicalisation programmes are essential to countering the waves of youngsters leaving to fight in the region.