French court to try eight men on terrorism-financing charges
A criminal court in Paris will on Monday begin hearing the trial of eight men accused of carrying out armed robberies and other crimes to finance Islamic extremist movements.
The key accused in the trial, 36-year-old French-Algerian Ouassini Cherifi, is alleged to have headed a criminal gang operating outside of his restaurant in a suburb of Paris that served as a source of funding for Al-Qaeda.
Cherifi, known as "the Turk", was previously convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to five years in prison in 2002 for trafficking false passports to radical Islamist groups.
The charges against the eight men relate to a failed robbery attempt on a company that transports cash and an armed robbery of a courier service in which the suspects allegedly made off with bags carrying documents from the Impremerie Nationale, the official printing works of the French government.
Some of the accused have admitted to being members of the criminal gang and taking part in the failed robbery attempt, but have denied the group's goal was to finance terrorism.
Cherifi, however, is alleged to have gone to Turkey in September 2005 to meet members of an extremist cell and to have committed to financing their operations. He has denied the allegation, saying he went to the country on a business trip.
Cherifi was among 28 people detained during major police swoops on suspected militants in the Paris region in 2005.
The trial will be held before a special criminal court for serious crimes composed entirely of judges and is expected to conclude on January 28.
© 2011 AFP