Court upholds jail term for kidnapper of Spaniards

11th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

A Mauritanian appeals court confirmed Wednesday a 12-year jail term handed to a Mali national for kidnapping three Spanish aid workers last year and handing them over to Al-Qaeda.

The court also confirmed that the sentence for 52-year-old Omar Sid'Ahmed Ould Hamma should include hard labour and that all his goods should be seized.

Hamma, also known as "Omar the Sahrawi", was accused of kidnapping the three on November 29, 2009 while they were delivering aid on behalf of Barcelona-based group Accio Solidaria.

Described as a mercenary and human trafficker, he is said to have handed the three to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the North African branch of Osama bin Laden's terror network, in exchange for payment.

AQIM released 39-year-old Alicia Gamez in March but still holds Roque Pascual, 50, and Albert Vilaltam, 35, reportedly in northern Mali.

Hamma's defence on Wednesday demanded that Gamez be called as a witness as she could "tell the truth regarding our client and confirm his innocence".

But prosecutors replied that "nobody is required to do the impossible" and she would not be forced to return to the country where she was kidnapped.

A small but highly mobile and well-oiled army of around 300 people, AQIM has made millions in ransoms for kidnapped Westerners and drug trafficking across the Sahel region of North Africa.

It announced in July that it had killed 78-year-old French hostage Michel Germaneau, abducted in northern Niger on April 19, in revenge for the killing of six of its members in a failed Mauritanian-French rescue raid.

© 2010 AFP

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