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Monday, 28 October, 2002, 15:09 GMT
Trial of al-Qaeda suspects adjourned
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 an attack against Nato ships in the Straits of Gibraltar has been adjourned until 25 December.

Seven Moroccans, including two of the Saudi men's wives, are also on trial accused of helping them.

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

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.

Bail

Proceedings opened at the Casablanca Appeal Court at around 0930GMT.

The accused, including the women, completely veiled in black, were called to stand for the judges.

Defence lawyers then argued for an hour for a list of 10 witnesses to be called.

After a brief recess, the judge announced the list put forward by the defence would not be allowed, but that any witness mentioned in the original police report would be called.

Lawyers also asked for their clients to be granted bail and the court has not yet decided on that.

Tourist targets

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

The prosecution alleges 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.

It is alleged that they also 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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27 Oct 02 | Africa
12 Jun 02 | Africa
11 Jun 02 | Africa
11 Jun 02 | Americas
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