A suspected Islamist radical who once served as Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard, was detained in Germany on Monday, police said.
The case of the Tunisian man, Sami A., sparked outrage in April after German media reported that he was receiving welfare benefits even though intelligence agencies have classified him as a potential threat.
Authorities in the western city of Bochum had asked police to detain Sami A. and the man did not resist, a spokesman for police there said.
Top-selling newspaper Bild reported, without citing its sources, that Sami A. was now due to be deported.
Police could not confirm that, pointing instead to authorities in Bochum. A spokesperson for the city of Bochum could not be immediately reached.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has ordered immigration authorities to expedite proceedings that would allow Germany to deport Sami A.
Sami A. had previously successfully argued against his deportation, saying he risked being tortured in his homeland.
But Germany’s Federal Office for Migration reversed that decision on Monday, following a public outcry over the case and an intervention from Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.
The Tunisian, who arrived in Germany in 1997, was taken into custody when he reported for his daily visit to a Bochum police station.
Considered a security threat over his suspected ties to hardline groups, Sami A. has for years had to report to police but was never charged with an offense.
He has always denied being the former bodyguard of late Al-Qaeda leader bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
Judges in a 2015 terror case in Muenster, however, said they believed Sami A. underwent military training at an Al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan in 1999 and 2000 and belonged to bin Laden’s team of guards.
German authorities first rejected Sami A.’s asylum request in 2007 but prosecutors’ efforts to expel him were repeatedly blocked by courts citing the danger of torture in Tunisia.
An unrelated court ruling last month involving another Tunisian man – accused over a 2015 attack on Tunis’ Bardo museum – helped pave the way for Sami A.’s expulsion.
In that instance, German judges found that the accused did not face the threat of the death penalty as Tunis has had a moratorium on implementing capital punishment since 1991.
Sami A. has a wife and children who are German citizens.