Suspected Islamist goes on trial for 1995 attacks

27th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 27, 2006 (AFP) - A suspected Islamic radical from Algeria who was extradited from Britain after a long legal fight went on trial in Paris Monday in connection with a wave of deadly bombings in the French capital in 1995.

PARIS, Feb 27, 2006 (AFP) - A suspected Islamic radical from Algeria who was extradited from Britain after a long legal fight went on trial in Paris Monday in connection with a wave of deadly bombings in the French capital in 1995.

Rachid Ramda, 35, is charged with criminal association with a terrorist organisation and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail -- almost the same length of time he spent in detention in Britain awaiting extradition to France, which finally happened in December.

The charges before a magistrate's court relate only to the planning and preparation of the 1995 metro attacks, which were blamed on the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) and left eight dead and 200 injured.

Ramda, who is alleged to have financed the operation, faces a possible second trial before a jury for his alleged role in the actual bombings, in which he risks a life sentence.

The defence was expected to argue for the case to be dropped on the grounds that the main evidence against Ramda -- witness statements from convicted bomber Boualem Bensaid -- was extracted under duress.

France's National Police Inspectorate (IGPN) is currently investigating allegations made in a recent book that police tortured suspects in the 1995 bombings using electronic prods and beatings.

"Apart from a few fingerprints on bank documents and some telephone taps, the accusations against my client are based essentially on the confessions of Boualem Bensaid," Ramda's lawyer Guillaume Barbe told Le Parisien newspaper.

Ramda was arrested in Britain in November 1995 and evaded extradition for many years by a series of appeals.

Investigators believe that in the early 1990s he was a leading GIA operative in Europe, in regular touch with the group's leader in Algeria Jamel Zeitouni who wished to punish France for its support of the government in Algiers.

He is believed to have channelled funds from London to the perpetrators of the bomb plot -- Bensaid and Smain Ait Ali Belkacem. Both received life terms in 2002 for the crime.

In 1993 Ramda was sentenced to death in his absence in Algeria after being convicted of a bomb attack on the city's airport which killed nine people the year before.

He fled to Britain where he was kept under surveillance by the authorities. Police believe he was editor of the GIA's newsletter Al-Ansar.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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