Six stand trial for Paris US embassy terror plot
PARIS, Jan 3 (AFP) - Six Islamic militants went on trial in Paris on Monday on suspicion of terror-related offences, with the main defendant accused of masterminding a plot to strike the US embassy in the French capital.
The six men have been charged with criminal association in relation with a terrorist enterprise. Two other men with connections to the group have been charged only with violating residency requirements.
The suspected ringleader of the militants, Djamel Beghal, was arrested in September 2001 at the airport in the Gulf emirate of Dubai, where he allegedly told investigators he was involved in a plot to attack the US embassy in Paris.
Beghal claimed to have met twice with Abu Zubaydah, a top aide to Al-Qaeda network leader Osama bin Laden, at a training camp in Afghanistan in March 2001, who told him to organize a cell in Paris to plan the embassy attack.
But the suspect later retracted the confession before top French anti-terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, claiming he had been physically and psychologically abused by investigators in the United Arab Emirates.
Beghal now says he is innocent of the charges against him. The 39-year-old Franco-Algerian and his five co-defendants face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Beghal, sporting glasses and a beard, smiled and appeared relaxed as he entered the courtroom and took his seat.
French investigators say he was the operational mastermind behind a radical Islamist cell that had contacts in Britain, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany.
The cell was based in Corbeil-Essonnes south of Paris, where Beghal once lived. He later moved to Britain, Germany and Pakistan, before spending time at Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.
The other members of the group, including computer expert Kamel Daoudi, were identified in surveillance operations conducted after Beghal’s arrest.
The trial is expected to last until mid-February.
Subject: French News