Teenager arrested for airbase selfies had terrorist conviction

An F16 at the Volkel airbase. Photo: US Air Force via Wikimedia Commons

The Dutch public prosecution department says it has no reason to hold a 19-year-old youth picked up for taking photographs inside an airbase, even though he had a previous conviction for terrorist offences.

Wael El A, who was working on the base, was held in custody for several days and was then released after the public prosecutor said there was no reason to think he had any ulterior motives.

El A was given a 2-year jail sentence in 2016 after being arrested at the Turkish Syrian border when he was 17. He claimed he had gone to pick up a jihadi friend who wanted to leave, but the public prosecutor said he had been planning to join Jabhat al-Nusra, a terror group with links to al-Qaida.

El A is appealing against his conviction and was not remanded in custody while waiting for the appeal court hearing. He was working at the Volkel airbase, which is rumoured to be home to American nuclear weapons, on a construction project for a temporary employment agency.

Everyone who works at the base needs to have a certificate of good behaviour but Ell A was sent to the base at the last minute to replace a sick colleague and it is not clear what papers he had.

The defence ministry is investigating how someone with a terrorist conviction was allowed into the base and defence unions have demanded an explanation.


His lawyer Francoise Landerloo told reporters that the teenager had been taking selfies with planes because he was impressed by them.

‘Youths of his age are naturally fascinated by being on an airbase,’ Landerloo said. In addition, no-one had told him that he was not allowed to take pictures.

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