Waterford-based man pleads guilty to funding Islamic State

A 26-year-old man has admitted providing funding from his Co Waterford base to terrorist organisation Islamic State, writes Conor Kane.

Hassan Bal, formerly of O’Connell Street in Waterford but recently in custody since being arrested at his Waterford home in April of last year, pleaded guilty at Waterford Circuit Court today to two counts relating to the funding and attempting funding of Islamic State.

His case was adjourned by Judge Eugene O’Kelly to April 10, when a date will be fixed for the case to be finalised and Mr Bal to be sentenced.

Mr Bal, who is in custody, was in court wearing a blue and white check shirt, green jacket and grey trousers.

He was only called upon to speak when asked to confirm he is Hassan Bal and he said “I am, yes,” and also when he said “guilty” in reply to each of two charges put to him.

The accused is originally from the UK and moved to Ireland with his family when he was 12 years of age, living initially in Wexford and then in Waterford from 2007.

He holds an Irish passport and was training to be an electrician. After he was arrested in April, the district court heard that his wife, who was also born in the UK, was pregnant with the couple’s first child.

Mr Bal pleaded guilty on Friday to unlawfully providing €400 in funds, using an An Post/Western Union money transfer, in Co Waterford on October 2 of 2015 to a Stevo Maksimovic in the city of Brako in Bosnia-Herzegovina, intending or knowing that the funds would be used in whole or in part for the benefit or purposes of the terrorist group known as Islamic State or Daesh.

This offence carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment, on indictment.

He also pleaded guilty to unlawfully and wilfully attempting to collect or receive cash from a person known to him as Omar Abu Aziz, by means of telephonic communications and an intermediary at an address at 2 Geron Way, London NW2 6GJ, knowing that the funds would be used in whole or in part for the benefit or purposes of Islamic State.

That offence was committed on October 23 of 2015.

The offences are contrary to section 13 (3)(a) and section 13 (4) of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act of 2005.

Giollaiosa Ó Lideadha SC, defending, said it was a “very unusual case” and said the sentencing hearing will take up to two hours when it goes ahead.

He handed into a court a document in relation to a request for an expert on radicalisation, Dr Daniel Koelher of the German Institute of Radicalisation and De-Radicalisation Studies, to carry out a report in relation to Hassan Bal.

He asked that Mr Koelher be given access to interviews with Mr Bal and any associated documents including the Book of Evidence; that the expert provide a report on why Mr Bal became “associated with such activities” and if has since been de-radicalised and whether he does not appear to support “terrorist organisations like Islamic State” anymore.

Mr Ó Lideadha also asked that Mr Koelher be available to give evidence at the sentencing hearing and that he be allowed access in prison to Mr Bal for the purposes of carrying out further investigation and a report.

“He has made it clear he would be providing an expert opinion to the court and is very well aware of his obligations as an expert witness to be fair and clear and to report on the basis of his primary obligations to the court,” senior counsel said.

He added that his client, Mr Bal, is “very well aware” that the court would have access to Mr Koelher’s report, whatever the conclusions are.

Judge O’Kelly agreed to extend the legal aid certificate for the defence to enable “an expert, independent report on radicalisation,” pending the defence furnishing the qualifications of the expert they had put forward.

The judge also ordered that the expert report be made available to the prosecution not less than a week before the sentencing hearing. This was agreed by Alex Owens SC, for the State.

Hassan Bal was remanded in custody, to appear again in court on April 10.

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