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Terror suspects on trial over bombing attacks

Published on 16/11/2005

16 November 2005

BRUSSELS — After a procedural hearing earlier this month, the trial of 13 men accused of links to the terror network GICM officially started in Brussels Court on Wednesday.

The suspects were arrested in Maaseik and Brussels between March and July last year on allegations they provided logistical support to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM).

The terror network is suspected of being responsible for the Casablanca bomb attacks in Morocco in May 2003 and the Madrid train bombings in Spain in March 2004.

One of the Belgian suspects is accused of assisting the Casablanca bombers, while the group is accused of providing logistical support for the Madrid bombings.

Some 17 suspects faced legal proceedings in August, 13 of whom were ordered to stand trial. Eleven suspects appeared at the procedural hearing at the start of this month.

The trial is being conducted in French after the court refused a request on 3 November that the lawyer of three suspects be able to speak Dutch.

The request was denied because it was not made via proper procedures. The trial will be in French because that is the language most suspects speak. Interpreters are being provided to the other defendants.

Defence lawyers claimed two weeks ago that while the men sympathise with the GICM, they are not active members of the organisation and are certainly not terrorists, broadcaster VRT reported.

The trial represents the first time that a special terrorism law enacted in 2003 will be applied. The new law could result in the men being jailed for up to 10 years if convicted of belonging to a terrorist organisation.

Tight security will be in force around Brussels Court for the duration of proceedings. The trial will involve four days of hearings each week, with a 5th day reserved to clarify matters if needed.

The trial is scheduled to continue until 13 December, but may extend beyond that date.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news