Alleged Iraq recruiters on trial in France
Seven men went on trial in Paris on charges of running a network that recruited young Muslims in the poor northeast of the French capital.
PARIS, March 20, 2008 - Seven men went on trial Wednesday in Paris on charges of running a network that recruited young Muslims in the poor
northeast of the French capital to fight in the Iraqi insurgency.
The seven are suspected of travelling to Iraq to take part in combat or of
recruiting young men from Paris' 19th district to send as fighters.
They were arrested following an investigation launched in 2004, when a
young Frenchman, Redouane El-Hakim, was found dead in the Iraqi city of
Fallujah. His brother Boubakeur El-Hakim is one of the seven standing trial.
According to prosecutors, the network's ringleader was Farid Benyettou, 26,
who attended a mosque in northeast Paris and who admits encouraging several of his followers to join the Iraqi insurgency.
At least a dozen youths, either foreign or of North African descent, many
of them friends since childhood, are known to have travelled to fight US-led
forces in Iraq, from 2004 onwards.
Three died in a suicide bombing in Iraq, while several others were injured
or arrested in Iraq and neighbouring Syria.
Benyettou, El-Hakim and two other defendants, Said Abdellah and Nacer
Eddine Mettai, have been in custody since the start of the investigation.
A fifth man, Mohammed El Ayouni, a Frenchman of Tunisian descent, lost an
eye and a forearm during fighting in Fallujah in November 2004 and was
deported from Damas to France in June 2006.
The remaining two defendants, Thamer Bouchnak and Cherif Kouachi, were
arrested as they prepared to leave France for Syria.
The trial is set to run until March 28, with the verdict to be handed down
at a later date.