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Serbia jails Islamists for ‘terrorism’

Published on 09/09/2009

Belgrade — A Serbian court on Tuesday sentenced four radical Islamists to up to eight years in prison on "terrorism" charges, the Beta news agency reported.

The court in Belgrade found the four guilty of plotting "acts against the constitution" of Serbia and "terrorism". Two received eight-year jail terms, and the others terms of seven and four years.

Two of the defendants, Bajram Alsani and Dzevad Bulic, were sentenced in absentia, the report said.

The defence lawyers said they would appeal the verdicts.

According to judge Milan Ranic, the members of the group "were trained in piloting planes and have established links with like minds in Bosnia, Macedonia, Albania, Georgia and Syria."

"From May to September 2007, they planned to set up explosives" in Novi Pazar, the main town in the southern Sandzak region, which has a large Muslim population, as well as "other violent actions aimed at stoking fears among the citizens of Serbia."

During the investigation, the police seized discs with footage of the killings of US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, the murders of Russian soldiers in Chechnya, and the actions of suicide bombers, Beta reported, citing the charges.

The defendants also "obtained from abroad large quantities of arms, weaponry and explosive devices, and planned the assassination of policemen" securing football matches in Novi Pazar, it added.

The verdict is the second in several months against radical Islamists, mostly followers of the radical Wahhabite sect of Islam.

A court in Belgrade in July convicted 12 Serbian Muslims to lengthy prison terms for "terrorism" and plotting assassinations.

Wahhabis are followers of a fundamentalist movement in Sunni Islam as practised in Saudi Arabia who insist their beliefs are those of the first three generations of Muslims.

Although local media reports say the number of Wahhabis has increased in the Balkans in recent years, experts believe that they are still marginal.