Hamdi Chamari

Hamdi Chamari was born in Castelvetrano (TP) on August 17, 1989, but was living in Campobello di Mazara (TP) and had obtained the Italian citizenship in 2008. Court records also attest that Chamari has a brother, Hamed. Chamari came under the scrutiny of the Carabinieri’s “Operation Masrah” beginning in early 2008, as he was suspected of being associated with a cell affiliated with al-Qaeda in Andria, led by the Imam Hassen Hachemi Ben Hosni.
According to judicial documents, the cell was a gathering of people united by the same mindset and religious ideology, often expressing their readiness and willingness to reach conflict zones and do martyrdom. The Islamic Center and Hosni’s call center served as hubs for ideological indoctrination, utilising web searches and the analysis of militaristic and terrorist materials. Alongside Azam, the other members in the group identified by the police were Nabil Azam, Elkhaldey Faez, Nour Ifaoui, and Romdhane Ben Chedli Khaireddine.
The court documents attest that phone conversations between Chamari and other members of the group revealed his antisemitic sentiments, his hatred towards Christians and westerners, and his readiness to do jihad in conflict areas. A particular phone conversation with a man named Abdelsattar shows that in March 2009, Chamari sent Abdelsattar a compromising photo in which the defendant is seen posing while wearing traditional jihadist clothes. Abdelsattar warned Chamari about the compromising nature of the image and advised him to be more careful, as it could be used as evidence against the group. Another discussion with Azam in January 2009 suggested a deep-seated animosity towards Jews, so severe that they discussed mass killing. Additionally, a conversation in March 2009 indicated his disdain for all nonbelievers, including Christians, as he labeled a church priest “Satan” and called for violence.
Regarding the willingness to do jihad, several phone conversations from 2009 with Azam reveal their intention of combating infidels, as Chamari hinted at his need to go to Gaza to join the Prophet Mohamed’s Army to fulfil God’s vengeance against Jews. In particular, they discussed their frustration at not being able to join conflict zones to do jihad, a feeling aggravated by being in Italy, where Muslims are a minority and thus far from where God wanted them. During police interrogation, Chamari offered an explanation of the term jihad which did not convince the authorities: according to the defendant, jihad meant defending your land and honor when you are offended, and thus, if this grievance happens somewhere else, jihad is not required. This statement also contradicted what Chamari had said during phone conversations, as he explicitly stated his willingness to travel to Gaza to fight.
Moreover, on his computer, police found a series of compromising documents including a video expressing anti-American sentiment alongside mujahideen and missile attacks; files on arms, praising jihad, and other terrorist messages; photos of known al-Qaeda terrorists; a video of Bin Laden’s speech about 9/11; sermons about jihad and the fight against Jews; and photos of Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, crucial subjects in Chamari’s radicalisation. The content of these files was often shared in various phone conversations with other members of the group, although Chamari defended himself during police interrogation by stating that he only downloaded this material out of curiosity.
On April 30, 2013, police seized two posters from Chamari’s house; these posters of explicit radical and propagandistic nature had been sent by Hosni to the Milano mosque in August 2008. Additionally, his Facebook profile showed he was friends with most of the other defendants in this case – photos recovered on Chamari’s computer attested to their friendship – as well as with a man linked to the extremist movement Ansar al-Sharia. However, unlike the rest of the group members, it was not possible to discern whether Chamari had ever frequented Hosni’s call centre to watch and download propagandistic videos on jihad, military training, and religious indoctrination. Still, the judge for the preliminary investigation believed that Chamari’s conduct fit well within the group’s dynamics and modes of action, testified by his racial hatred, willingness to achieve martyrdom in conflict zones, and the files found on his computer.
Therefore, Chamari’s radicalisation process started from a need to deepen and explore his faith, eventually leading to his becoming an active participant in a group that was psychologically and emotionally engaging. The radicalisation journey was marked by anti-Western and anti-Semitic sentiments, coupled with an aversion towards Muslim nations allied with the US. This process was further characterised by membership in a group where each member openly shared interest in engaging in conflict zones to do jihad, discussing tactics such as explosives and firearms procurement while being cognisant of associated risks and taking precautions. Radicalisation also entailed isolating oneself from friends, family, and society at large, spending time exclusively with like-minded individuals. This fostered the formation of a micro-community detached from external influences, allowing for the unrestricted practice of their interpretation of Islam. Consequently, the radicalisation process became a psychological, motivational, and emotional spiral, wherein religious doctrines were internalised to such an extent that death is embraced while life was perceived solely as a means to achieve martyrdom.
On February 6, 2013, the preliminary investigation judge of Bari ordered pre-trial detention for Chamari. He was charged under art. 270 bis of the Italian Criminal Code for involvement in a terrorist network in Andria, engaging in proselytism through propagandistic videos, audios, and documents, and espousing anti-Semitic and anti-Western sentiments. Chamari was arrested on May 24, 2013.
On September 24, 2014, the Tribunal of Bari sentenced Chamari to 3 years and 4 months in prison, taking into account his young age, despite his failure to demonstrate any remorse for his actions.
On October 27, 2015, the Appeal Court revised the sentence, which was later confirmed by the Court of Cassation on July 14, 2016, stating that Chamari was very young at the time of his involvement within the group and therefore more impressionable. His sentence was reduced to 2 years and 8 months, which he had already served, setting Chamari free.