Home News Al Qaeda militant found guilty for Tunisian synagogue attack

Al Qaeda militant found guilty for Tunisian synagogue attack

Published on 06/02/2009

Paris -- A French court on Thursday sentenced a German Al Qaeda militant to 18 years after finding him guilty of plotting the 2002 suicide bombing of a Tunisian synagogue that left 21 dead.

Christian Ganczarski, an Islamic convert who visited Afghan and Pakistani militant camps and met Osama Bin Laden, was found guilty of complicity in the murders and of membership in a terrorist group.

Tunisian accomplice Walid Nawar — the brother of suicide bomber Nizar Nawar — was jailed for 12 years for having supplied the attacker with false papers and a satellite telephone to help him carry out the attack.

When the month long trial began, the pair were charged along with 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was also alleged to have helped plan the attack. The attack targeted tourists visiting Djerba’s historic synagogue.

Sheikh Mohammed, however, is imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay and could not appear in court. Judges chose to separate his case from that of Ganczarski and Nawar and try him at a later date.

After the hearing, the daughter of one of the French victims of the bombing, Catherine Christaens, welcomed the verdict.

"Justice has been served in all its dignity,” she said. “We have, over the past five weeks, tried to understand the logic of the terrorists. Tonight we are relieved. Justice was done."

On April 11, Nizar Nawar detonated a fuel tanker rigged with explosives in front of the Ghriba synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba, killing 14 German tourists, five Tunisians and two French nationals.

Al Qaeda  claimed responsibility for the attack.

The court heard that Nawar contacted both Ganczarski and Sheikh Mohammed shortly before the bombing.

French and German investigators believe that between 1999 and 2001, Ganczarski traveled several times to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border to meet Al Qaeda’s Saudi-born figurehead Bin Laden.

The operative, who was in regular contact with Sheikh Mohammed, put his expertise in radio and Internet communications at the service of Al Qaeda  and helped recruit members in Europe, according to investigators.

Western intelligence agencies tracked down Ganczarski after identifying a call from the Djerba suicide bomber’s cell phone. He was arrested in June 2003 upon arriving in France from Saudi Arabia.

Ganczarski is said to have given Nawar the green light to carry out the attack during the phone call. The German, however, denied all knowledge of the attack throughout his trial.

The bomber’s uncle, Belgacem Nawar, was convicted in Tunisia in June 2006 of involvement in the attack and was sentenced to 20 years.

Sheikh Mohammed, who has confessed to being the architect of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, is said to have been be Al Qaeda’s "military commander" and responsible for all foreign operations.

Michel Moutot/AFP/Expatica