Expatica news

Court hearing for ‘terror’ suspects

13 September 2004

BRUSSELS – Court hearings began on in Belgium on Monday for ten men suspected of terrorist-related activities.

The preliminary hearings are expected to last until 23 September, but it is still unclear whether the ten men, all of North African origin, can be actually be specifically charged with terrorist offences.

The prosecution alleges the suspects committed crimes including holding secret meetings and making false documents, in both cases with the aim of aiding terrorist groups.

But the prosecution’s case may be thrown out as the alleged offences were committed before 19 December 2003 when Belgium passed legislation that specifically outlawed terrorism and support of terror groups.

The anti-terror law is not retroactive so it is not clear whether it can be applied to the ten suspects.

One of the most well known suspects is Tarek Maaroufi, who has already been convicted for assisting the assassins of former Afghani Northern Alliance leader Commandant Massoud.

Maaroufi is also believed to have had had close links with Mohammed Saber from Iraq, operating in Schaerbeek, and Moroccan Driss Elatellah, allegedly the lynchpin of an Antwerp-based logistical network for international terrorism.

The activities under scrutiny in the latetst hearings involve trafficking in false documents, recruitment and holding conspiratorial meetings.

The ten men were arrested following a Europe-wide sweep that was coordinated bt Italy’s anti-terrorism police.

The prosecution alleges that the Belgian suspects had links to terrorist leaders in Italy and Spain, including Essid Sami ben Khemais, who was accused of running an Al Quaeda cell in Milan.

The group all stand accused of allowing their telephones to be used to help coordinate terrorist atrocities such as the Casablanca bombing on 16 May 2003 which killed 45 people and the Madrid train bombing that killed over 200 people.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news