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Sunday, 27 October, 2002, 21:54 GMT
Morocco to try al-Qaeda suspects
The three Saudi suspects: Abdullah Mesfer Ali al-Ghamdi, Zouhair Hilal and Hilal El-Assiri
The Saudi suspects: Abdullah Mesfer Ali al-Ghamdi, Zouhair Hilal and Hilal El-Assiri (AFP)

The trial of three Saudis accused of forming an al-Qaeda cell in Morocco and of planning attacks against Nato warships in the Straits of Gibraltar is to due to begin in Casablanca.

Seven Moroccans accused of helping them are also being tried.

However, proceedings are likely to be adjourned since lawyers say they intend to ask for more time to prepare their defence.

The three Saudi men were arrested in Morocco in May, two of them at Casablanca Airport, as they attempted to leave the country.

Surveillance

The Moroccan Secret Service says the men were under surveillance for some time, following intelligence gained from al-Qaeda suspects being held by the US in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The men were held in secret detention and interrogated for a month before their arrests were made public in June.

A further seven Moroccans, including two of the men's wives, were later arrested and charged with helping them.

The prosecution allege that the Saudi men, who were fully integrated into Moroccan society, had been commissioned by al-Qaeda to blow up Nato ships based in the Straits of Gibraltar, off the northern Moroccan coast.

'Quiet life'

They also, it is alleged, planned to attack tourist targets in the country.

The accused will plead not guilty to all but one charge of falsifying a passport.

The men admit to having been in Afghanistan and one to having been a member of al-Qaeda before the 11 September attacks in the US, but they say they came to Morocco to lead a quiet life.

One of the lawyers for the defence claims the prosecution has no firm evidence and that the case is being brought to make the Moroccan Secret Service look good in the eyes of the US.


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12 Jun 02 | Africa
11 Jun 02 | Africa
11 Jun 02 | Americas
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