A German jihadist accused of taking part in a special torture unit set up by the so-called Islamic State (IS) group in Syria has gone on trial amid high security in Duesseldorf.
Nils D., 25, was arrested on his return from Syria a year ago and is accused of membership of a terror group.
He is alleged to have joined an IS unit that tracked down and killed deserters.
Since his return he is said to have given police 40 interviews about the inner workings of the jihadist group.
During his 13 months Syria, Nils D. – whose surname has not been released under German law – is accused of spending eight months in an internal security unit, apparently dubbed by some investigators as the “IS Gestapo”.
He was among a dozen local youths who travelled to Syria in 2013, naming themselves the Lohberger Brigade after an area of their town of Dinslaken near Duisburg.
Nils D. gave evidence in two trials last year, telling a court in Celle that he witnessed torture and executions. “Anyone who wants to turn their back on IS is automatically a dead man,” he said.
According to research by German journalists last October, Nils D said during his statements to the authorities that his unit had been styled as a department of internal security and that he was based in the Syrian town of Manbij, 80km (50 miles) north-east of Aleppo, and had been involved in up to 15 arrests.
Torture took place on a daily basis at Manbij prison and he spoke of an “execution square”.
Members of the special IS unit were given bonuses and better rates of pay than other jihadists and always appeared masked in public.
Although he denies involvement in torture or murder, a photo found on Nils D.’s mobile phone is said to have shown him holding a gun to a prisoner’s head.
If found guilty by Duesseldorf’s regional court, he could face up to 10 years in jail.
Eight hundred Germans are said to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join IS and an estimated 1,100 violent Islamists are living in Germany, according to domestic intelligence figures.