'Shoe bomber aides' on trial in Paris

11th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 11 (AFP) - A Pakistani national and two Frenchmen went on trial in a Paris criminal court on Wednesday for allegedly aiding convicted "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid in his bid to blow up a Paris-Miami flight three months after the attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States.

PARIS, May 11 (AFP) - A Pakistani national and two Frenchmen went on trial in a Paris criminal court on Wednesday for allegedly aiding convicted "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid in his bid to blow up a Paris-Miami flight three months after the attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States.  

The three men have been charged with criminal association in relation to a terrorist enterprise. They risk a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted.  

The suspected Islamist radicals were initially placed under investigation in France for alleged links to Reid, who tried to detonate explosives hidden in his shoes aboard a Miami-bound American Airlines flight on December 22, 2001.  

Reid, a British national and self-proclaimed disciple of the Islamic extremist Osama bin Laden, was sentenced to life in prison by a US court in January 2003.  

French investigators believe that the three men belonged to a group of operatives that helped Reid, but police say they also uncovered a Pakistani network that recruited fighters to carry out jihad, or holy war, abroad.  

Ghulam Rama, a 64-year-old Pakistani and president of a charity association called "Chemin droit" ("Right Path"), allegedly recruited his co-defendants, Hassan El Cheguer and Hakim Mokhfi, to fight abroad.  

Rama, who moved to France in 1980, frequently travelled abroad in 2001, making trips to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United States and Britain.  

Prosecutors say the trips were linked to Rama's involvement in the recruitment of terror operatives, but the Pakistani man says he was trying to raise funds to build a Muslim place of worship in Saint-Denis, outside Paris.  

"They've tried to show that Mr Rama committed acts that implicated him in terrorist acts, notably the Richard Reid affair, but nothing has been proven," Rama's attorney Didier Machetto said before the start of the trial.  

Machetto said Rama denied any involvement in recruiting fighters for terror training abroad.  

A fourth man, Kamel Lakhram, also went on trial Wednesday, but the terrorism-related charges against him were dropped. He stands accused of violating residency requirements.  

The trial is expected to last through May 27.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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