Germany has flown in a former leader of the Syrian Civilian Defence group operating in opposition-held areas known as the White Helmets, along with his family despite suspicions by security services over his alleged links to jihadist groups.
According to Der Spiegal, Khaled Al-Saleh and his family arrived in Germany on a government-owned Luftwaffe plane on Monday having flown out from Jordan where he had been living since 2018 at the Al-Azraq refugee camp as part of an evacuation he organised along with hundreds of White Helmets members from Syria.
While many of the evacuated had resettled in Europe and Canada, Al-Saleh’s attempts were initially vetoed by German officials due to his “proximity to an Islamist-jihadist worldview” despite promising to take in a total of four families.
Al-Saleh and his family stayed in the al-Azraq refugee camp for 2 1/2 years. Only after @KingAbdullahII intervened during a visit to Chancellor Merkel in 2019 a solution was found. Yesterday evening, Dec 7, al-Saleh landed in 🇩🇪 on board Merkel‘s old A340. https://t.co/RSdxK5IwNO
— Christoph Schult (@schultchristoph) December 8, 2020
Videos of militant groups were said to be found on his phone along with “various propaganda materials” and “numerous networks with relevant actors” were on the encrypted messenger service Telegram, according to a dossier of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Although Al-Saleh has denied having sympathy for jihadist groups, stating: “I never asked whether they were rebels or civilians… If we can save, we will save.”
It was also revealed that Jordan’s King Abdullah II personally raised Al-Saleh’s case with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a visit to Berlin last year.
The White Helmets have received support and funding from the West and have previously been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. However the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies consider them as a “pseudo humanitarian organisation” being affiliated with terrorist groups.