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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 September, 2003, 18:59 GMT 19:59 UK
Girls guilty of terror charges
Casablanca bomb debris
Morocco is still coming to terms with the Casablanca bombings
A court in Morocco has sentenced two teenage girls to five years in a correctional centre for plotting terrorist attacks.

The 14-year-old twin sisters were accused of planning suicide attacks on the Moroccan parliament, on a supermarket selling alcohol and against the royal family.

A third teenage girl was acquitted of any involvement in the offences.

The three girls were arrested early this month and accused of conspiracy along with 18 adult accomplices.

Defence lawyers said the twins had admitted planning the attacks.

But the lawyers pleaded for leniency, saying the girls had grown up in a difficult social environment and had been exploited by adult accomplices.

The case is the latest of a series of trials of suspected Islamist militants that have taken place since May's suicide bombings in Casablanca.

Human rights groups have criticised the speed with which the cases of more than 1,000 suspected Islamists have been handled.

Wept with joy

The girls were accused of planning to attack King Mohammed and other members of the Moroccan royal family.

King Mohammed VI
Could the girls have had the capacity to attack the King?
Their defence lawyer said such crimes could have earned the girls life imprisonment or event the death sentence.

The BBC's Pascale Harter in Rabat says the girls' lawyers successfully argued that the twins - Sana and Imame Laghriff - were no more than children and could not be held responsible for their actions.

She says their mother cried with joy when the verdict was announced.

There has been a mixed reaction to the case, with some Moroccans seeing it as confirmation of just how big a threat Islamic extremism poses.

The country is still coming to terms with the suicide bombings in May that killed 45 people in Casablanca.

But others question the likelihood of three impoverished girls, barely into their teens, having the capacity, even if they had the intention, of carrying out such ambitious attacks.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Richard Forrest
"In court they were portrayed as vulnerable victims exploited by adult accomplices"



SEE ALSO:
Three get life in Morocco trial
19 Sep 03  |  Africa
Country profile: Morocco
18 Jul 03  |  Country profiles
Moroccans' fair trial concerns
18 Sep 03  |  Africa


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