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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 February 2006, 20:40 GMT
Men guilty in Belgium terror case
A suspect (left) arrives at court in Brussels
The suspects all deny belonging to a group linked to bombings
A Belgian court has found three men guilty of belonging to an Islamist group linked to terror attacks in Madrid and Casablanca, in Morocco.

The court ruled they were leaders of a Belgian cell of the al-Qaeda-linked Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group.

Abdelkader Hakimi and Lahoussine El Haski were sentenced to seven years each and Mostafa Louanani to six years.

The March 2004 train bombings in Madrid killed 191 people and the attacks in Casablanca in May 2003 killed 45.

The trial, which began in November, is the first to be covered by Belgium's tough new anti-terror laws.

The court found eight other men guilty on lesser charges but acquitted two.

Fund raisers

The three chief defendants, all of whom are Belgian nationals of Moroccan origin, denied belonging to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM).

Train wreckage from one of the 11 March blasts in Madrid
The three convicted gave the Madrid train bombers logistical support
But the court ruled that they had provided logistical support to the group by allowing members to stay with them after the Madrid bombings, and by raising funds.

Reading out a 300-page verdict, the judges said Hakimi had visited Afghanistan and Croatia for training and had established a GICM cell in Belgium, the Associated Press news agency reports.

El Haski was guilty of raising money for the group, while Louanani was responsible for finding recruits to fight in the insurgency in Iraq, the judges said.

Under Belgium's terror legislation, a maximum five-year sentence can be handed down for belonging to a terrorist organisation, and a 10-year term if convicted of playing a co-ordinating role in helping terrorists.

Defence lawyers argued the only evidence against some of the accused was that they knew men charged with serious crimes.


SEE ALSO:
Madrid bombing suspects
10 Mar 05 |  Europe
'2,000 held' over Morocco bombs
12 May 04 |  Africa


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