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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 October, 2004, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Strasbourg plot suspects in court
By Caroline Wyatt
BBC Paris correspondent

Ten suspected radical Islamists have gone on trial in Paris, accused of taking part in a failed plot to bomb a market in eastern France in 2000.

View of a Strasbourg church
Strasbourg is one of France's richest and highest-profile cities
The so-called "Frankfurt group", all Algerian or French-Algerian, are accused of criminal conspiracy to attack a Strasbourg Christmas market.

They each face up to 10 years in jail if found guilty.

Four men allegedly linked to the group were convicted of planning the attack by a court in Frankfurt in March 2003.

They were sentenced to between 10 and 12 years' imprisonment.

One of the men is being tried in absentia, as he is currently being held for questioning in a British jail.

Forgery

The trial opened amid tight security, with six of the defendants led into court in handcuffs.

The same six sat behind bullet-proof glass and were guarded by 12 gendarmes wearing body armour beneath their uniforms.

The defendants spoke to confirm their names, ages and occupations to the judge, though one of them, Mohamed Bensakhria - alleged to have close connections with Osama Bin Laden - spoke through an interpreter after claiming he didn't speak French.

All are accused in connection with the failed plot to bomb the Christmas market in Strasbourg, and are charged with association with a terrorist enterprise. Some face extra charges of forging documents and identity papers.

The defence lawyer for Slimane Khalfaoui gave an impassioned opening argument, saying that the men could not have colluded as several of them had never met one another before the alleged plot.

'Burn in hell'

She also claimed they were on trial mainly for being Muslim, saying that France as a society had a problem accepting or dealing with Muslims.

The prosecution claims the men were all connected with the four Algerians convicted in Frankfurt of planning the attack in order to punish France for its support of the Algerian government.

The German court was shown a videotape made of the market, with a voiceover by one of the men convicted saying that the passers-by were the "enemies of God" and would burn in hell.

The trial is expected to last around three months.




SEE ALSO:
Strasbourg bomb plotters jailed
10 Mar 03  |  Europe
Algeria's terror connection
05 Mar 03  |  Europe
Strasbourg suspect pleads guilty
20 Feb 03  |  Europe



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