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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 March, 2004, 15:11 GMT
Driver tried to hit 'Bin Laden'
Osama Bin Laden
The driver mistook a pedestrian for the al-Qaeda leader
A driver in Montpellier, France, has been convicted for trying to run over a pedestrian he mistook for fugitive al-Qaeda boss Osama Bin Laden.

A court gave the 35-year-old man - named as Pierre, a struggling artist - a three-month suspended sentence.

His victim ran from the oncoming car, escaping injury when the vehicle slammed into the side of the street.

"It wasn't Bin Laden," the driver's lawyer, David Mendel, said. "If it was, we would have won US$5 million."


Mr Mendel argued that his client had been the victim of a temporary hallucination, triggered by anxiety over the global terror threat.

In particular, said Mr Mendel, his client had been traumatised by media coverage of last week's train bombings in Madrid, which killed 200 commuters.

The bombings have been blamed on Islamic militants acting under the auspices of al-Qaeda.

The court in Montpellier also ordered the driver to seek counselling and to pay a fine of 500 euros (about $600).

US President George Bush has announced a bounty of $27m for Osama Bin Laden, the Saudi-born Islamist suspected of masterminding the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

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