Dutch police still seek first an
elusive al-Qaida conviction

The four - an Algerian, a Dutchman, an Iraqi and a Libyan – had been in custody since their arrest in August last year. 

“They have been released because the public prosecutor has demanded sentences that will be shorter than the time they have already been in gaol", said Wim de Bruin of the Rotterdam Public Prosecutor’s Office.

"The sentences requested were for six to 12 months", he added.

The four accused were among a dozen illegal immigrants put on trial on 12 May, all accused of providing al-Qaeda with financial or logistical support.

The men were initially charged with being members of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, which is at war with the Algerian government.

Prosecutors later linked the four to al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Kashmir by the prosecution. The alleged connections have has never been proven.

Troubled trial

The trial of the remaining eight also faces problems, according to the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant. Prosecutors had accused them of helping the enemy in a time of conflict – a charge that has not been used in the Netherlands since shortly after World War II.

Bin Laden: allegedly
linked to remaining
eight defendants

The defence counsel claimed that war crimes charges should be heard in a military court, but the judge overruled this and allowed the case to be heard in a civil court first.

The eight suspects come from Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Iraq and Turkey.

Experts on Islam called to the witness box were unable to establish whether documents found at the suspects’ homes were a call to holy war or indicated a personal spiritual struggle.

The prosecution suffered a setback when the deputy head of Dutch intelligence said that a code of secrecy prevented him from telling the court how information on the suspects was obtained, according to the daily newspaper.

Although the Dutch secret services estimate that more than 100 terrorist operatives are at work in the Netherlands, prosecutors have not yet succeeded in convicting any suspects.

Last December, a Rotterdam court had to acquit four suspects accused of plotting to attack the United States' embassy in Paris because of insufficient evidence.

Prosecutors may hope to bolster their case against the remaining eight suspects in the case by resurrecting the Second World War charge of helping the enemy in a time of war.