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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 April, 2004, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
US embassy 'plotters' acquitted
Policeman outside US embassy in Rome
Italy has arrested several suspected Islamists since 11 September 2001
An Italian court has acquitted nine Moroccans accused of plotting an attack on the US embassy in the capital, Rome.

The verdict came after about three hours of deliberations in a top-security court house in Rome.

The men were arrested in February 2002 on suspicion of planning to poison water supplies around the embassy - they even had maps of the area.

Officials initially said they possessed a powdered cyanide-based substance that could poison an entire neighbourhood.

It's been shown that these people had no link to international terrorism
Defence lawyer
But tests later showed it was a form of potassium ferro-cyanide that did not have enough cyanide to cause major damage.

The men denied any wrongdoing.

Relief

The suspects were charged with association aimed at international terrorism.

The Assize Court threw out all the charges to the relief of the defendants.

"It's a huge satisfaction," a lawyer for two of the Moroccans, said, quoted by the Associated Press news agency.

"It's been shown that these people had no link to international terrorism."

Prosecutor Franco Ionta had asked the court to convict four of the defendants.

The defence had argued that the suspects had even been released from arrest because they posed no threat to public safety.

Four of the Moroccans were detained in a raid on a flat in the Tor Bella Monaca area in the south of the Italian capital.

Police also found maps marking the capital's water supply network, as well as a hoard of false documentation and Islamic extremist propaganda.

They also discovered two holes - the biggest measuring 30 by 50cm (12 by 20 inches) - in an underground tunnel adjacent to the US embassy, raising suspicion the suspects intended to carry out an attack.

In a separate case, the court also acquitted a Pakistani, a Tunisian and an Algerian, who were charged with forming a terrorist cell based around al-Harmini mosque in Rome.

They were also arrested in early 2002.

The two cases were not connected but were joined to shorten court time, AP reports.


SEE ALSO:
'Terror tunnels' found in Rome
24 Feb 02  |  Europe
'Cyanide attack' foiled in Italy
20 Feb 02  |  Europe


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