Frenchman to stand trial in Australia terror plot

20th December 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 19, 2006 (AFP) - A Frenchman charged with abetting a high-profile assassination in Afghanistan and suspected of plotting a terror attack in Australia will stand trial in Paris early next year, legal officials said Tuesday.

PARIS, Dec 19, 2006 (AFP) - A Frenchman charged with abetting a high-profile assassination in Afghanistan and suspected of plotting a terror attack in Australia will stand trial in Paris early next year, legal officials said Tuesday.

Willie Brigitte, a 38-year-old Muslim convert, was deported from Australia in October 2003 on immigration grounds and has been held in French custody since.

Officials said Brigitte was to be brought before a Paris criminal court primarily on charges of helping supply false identity documents used by killers of Ahmad Shah Massood, an Afghan war chief fighting the Taliban who was murdered two days before the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

Although five Islamic extremists were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to seven years in May 2005 for their roles in that case, Brigitte was singled out for separate prosecution. His three-day trial is slated to begin on February 7.

France's top anti-terrorist judge, Jean-Louis Bruguière, signed the trial order for Brigitte on October 20.

The formal charge against Brigitte is for "associating with criminals in relation to a terrorist enterprise," a charge which carries with it a maximum 10-year prison term.

The document also indicted Sajid Mir, the suspected chief for overseas operations of the Lashkar-e-Toiba radical Islamic group active in Pakistan.

Officials said other matters — including Brigitte's alleged plans to carry out an attack in Sydney — may also be raised during the trial.

Prosecutors believe that Mir, who remains at large but with a French warrant issued for his arrest, summoned Brigitte to Australia with a view to carrying out attacks in the country.

The pair are suspected of plotting strikes on potential targets including a US electronic intelligence outpost in Pine Gap, central Australia, the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in Sydney and military bases across the country.

One of Brigitte's contacts in Australia was allegedly Faheem Khalid Lodhi, a Pakistani-Australian architect sentenced this year to 20 years in jail for planning a terrorist act on Australian soil.

Brigitte's lawyer, Jean-Claude Durimel, said his client maintained his innocence.

"My client contests all allegations of terrorist activity. He had gone to Australia to change his life, he never participated in attack plots," he said.

"There is no material evidence against my client."

Brigitte, who is originally from the French Caribbean territory of Guadeloupe, converted to Islam in 1998.

That year he travelled to Yemen where he attended a Koranic school alleged by prosecutors to have links to Al-Qaeda, until he was expelled after a wave of arrests in Islamist circles.

Upon his return to France, prosecutors believe Brigitte came into contact with sympathisers of the Algerian armed Islamist group the GSPC.

During that period he is accused of running forest training camps in France for volunteer Islamist fighters preparing to leave for Afghanistan.

Following the September 11 attacks, Brigitte is thought to have tried to reach Afghanistan, but got no further than Pakistan where prosecutors said he underwent military training in camps run by Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Back in France, after a "sleeping period", prosecutors believe he left for Australia after receiving a green light from Mir.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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