Judgment day fixed for Belgium 'terrorist' trial

9th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

9 January 2006, BRUSSELS – The fate of 13 men accused of providing backup for the Madrid and Casablanca bombings will be decided on 16 February, it was reported at the weekend.

9 January 2006

BRUSSELS – The fate of 13 men accused of providing backup for the Madrid and Casablanca bombings will be decided on 16 February, it was reported at the weekend.

The trial of the suspects, which started in November, was concluded at Brussels Court on Friday evening with statements from both the prosecution and the defence.

All the suspects are accused of belonging to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, the GICM, a terrorist group which is believed to have links to Al Quaida and which is suspected of planning the attacks on Madrid's trains in March 2004 and the Casablanca bombings in May 2003.

They were arrested in Maaseik and Brussels between March and July last year.

Last month, the federal public prosecutor demanded the maximum sentence of 10 years jail for two of the men who are alleged to be leaders of GICM.

They were identified as Abdelkader Hakimi and Lahoussine el Haski, according to the newspaper 'Het Laatste Nieuws.

The prosecutor also demanded eight years' jail for two other suspects who allegedly held leading roles within GICM.

Seven suspects accused of being involved in the activities of the terror network face jail terms of four to five years. Two men face a jail term of three months for entering Belgium illegally.

On Friday, lawyers for the defence argued their clients were innocent of terrorism and only guilty of the minor offences of using false documents and being illegal immigrants.

The lawyers said the trial had produced no evidence of weapons and no evidence that the men were planning a terrorist attack. The lawyers also complained the police had used illegal methods to collect evidence against the suspects.

The trial of these 13 men is the first to test Belgium's tough new anti-terrorist laws.

It has been extensively based on the divulging of contacts that some of the suspects had with individuals currently in custody for alleged roles in the Madrid bombings.

Evidence from GICM suspects being held in France and Morocco - some of whom admit to belonging to the organisation - was heard at the trial.

The court must decide whether the men based in Belgium were part of the command structure of GICM or whether, as their lawyers have claimed, they were simply friends of the bombing suspects who were not aware of their real motives.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Belgian news

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