Strasbourg bomb plotters jailed

A French court has sentenced 10 people to prison terms of up to 10 years for taking part in a conspiracy to blow up a Christmas market in the eastern city of Strasbourg.

    The men plotted to blow-up a Christmas market

    Muhammad Bansakhria and Sulaiman Khalfaui, said to be the group's leaders, were given 10 years, and Muhammad Yacin Aknuch was given eight.

    Rabah Kadri - who is in detention in Britain after being arrested in 2002 under that country's anti-terrorism laws in connection with a reported attempt to attack the London Underground - was given six years and was banned from entering French territory.

    They and the others, who received terms of six years or less, were all found guilty of "criminal association with a terrorist enterprise."

    The men allegedly provided logistical support for a group of Islamists based in the German city of Frankfurt, who were arrested in possession of plans to blow up the Strasbourg market in December 2000.

    Range of sentences

    Four members of the Frankfurt group were sentenced to between 10 and 12 years in jail by a German court last year.

    The 10 in France were charged with being directly involved in the plot, which was to have used a timer connected to explosives to wreak havoc at the Strasbourg Christmas market.

    The accused repeatedly denied
    having links to al-Qaida

    Others sentenced were: Marwan Barrahal, who got six years; Laurent Djumakh, also six years; Lazhar Tlili, a Tunisian given five years; and Samir Korchi, four years.

    The last two, Nicolas Belloni and Abd al-Kadir Tcharik, were sentenced respectively to three years and two and a half years, but were given an 18 months' suspension in each case.

    Defence lawyers called the jail terms too severe, with one, Karim Baylouni, saying his client, Aknuch, had been arrested for a "virtual crime" not carried out. Aknuch had been in a German prison during the planning for the attack.

    Khalfaui's lawyer, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre (also the lawyer - and wife - of the jailed terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal), said the judgements showed that "French institutions are racist, anti-Arab and Islamophobic."

    'Attack not ordered'

    The four arrested and sentenced in Germany last year were all French citizens of Algerian origin.

    One of them, Djillali Banali, said during the trial that he had trained at a camp in Afghanistan but that he had not planned the Strasbourg attack on the orders of Usama bin Laden or his al-Qaida network.

    Three of the accused admitted attempting to bomb a deserted synagogue in Strasbourg in late January or early February 2001 and said their sentences should be light because no one would have been hurt.

    Federal prosecutors had tried to draw a link between the group and al-Qaida, but the defendants repeatedly denied any ties and the prosecutors dropped the charge in January as it would have been too time consuming to prove.

    The four were arrested on 26 December, 2000 during a police raid in Frankfurt in which explosives, weapons and the videotape were seized.

    SOURCE: AFP


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