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Page last updated at 08:29 GMT, Tuesday, 28 July 2009 09:29 UK

Morocco court convicts Islamist

File photo of Abdelkader Belliraj in Sale, Morocco, 1 July 2008
Abdelkader Belliraj's was the figurehead of the Islamist group

A Moroccan-born Belgian man accused of leading an Islamist militant group and committing six murders in Belgium has been imprisoned for life in Morocco.

Abdelkader Belliraj was also convicted by the court in Sale of arms smuggling and threatening state security.

Belliraj was one of more than 30 people, including six Islamist politicians, arrested in February 2008.

During the trial, his lawyer argued he had made visits to militant groups for Belgium's intelligence services.

But Mohammed Ziane accepted that his client had been found with weapons originally sent to Islamists in Algeria, and that these had later returned to Morocco.

"We cannot argue with court's decision but it was only the first stage in this trial and we still have to go to the appeal court," Mr Ziane said after the verdict on Monday.

"What we expect is that the court will be more fair, take their conditions into consideration and base its verdict on concrete and proven facts," he added.

Belliraj repeatedly told the court: "I never brought weapons into Morocco and deny making any attempts to overthrow the regime."

State prosecutors had initially sought the death penalty for Belliraj.

The case divided Morocco with some political parties and human rights groups springing to the defence of the arrested politicians.



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