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Last Updated: Monday, 3 July 2006, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
France tries Guantanamo suspects
Redouane Khalid, one of the suspects, arrives at the court with his lawyer
All but one of the six have been free since their repatriation
Six Frenchmen released from the US base at Guantanamo Bay have gone on trial in Paris on terrorism-related charges.

The men were arrested in Afghanistan following the 11 September attacks. It is alleged they were recruited there to fight alongside the Taleban.

A seventh man who also returned to France after being held in Guantanamo has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

The prosecution alleges the six men were recruited from 1998 by an Algerian, Rachid Boukhalfa.

He is currently being held in a British prison.

Guantanamo inmates
Imad Achab Kanouni, 29
Khaled Ben Mustapha, 34
Redouane Khalid, 38
Brahim Yadel, 36
Mourad Benchellali, 25
Nizar Sassi, 26

Mr Boukhalfa is suspected of having planned al-Qaeda attacks in the United States.

If found guilty, the defendants risk 10 years in prison.

The six went to Afghanistan during 2000 and 2001. They were captured after the US invasion and transferred to Guantanamo in Cuba.

They were returned to France in 2004 and 2005 after negotiations between the French and US governments.

All six have now gone on trial accused of associating with criminals in relation to a terrorist organisation.

Two have also been indicted on counterfeiting charges.

Prosecutors allege they received training in a camp near Kandahar, but the trial is likely to put the spotlight equally on conditions at Guantanamo.

'Just for the weapons'

The six defendants are Imad Achab Kanouni, 29, Khaled Ben Mustapha, 34, Redouane Khalid, 38, Brahim Yadel, 36, Mourad Benchellali, 25, and Nizar Sassi, 26.

It was a matter of being able to handle weapons as I wanted and as much as I wanted
Nisar Sassi

All, apart from Brahim Yadel, have been free since their repatriation.

Mr Mustapha told French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche he had not fought US-led forces in Afghanistan and had suffered as a prisoner at Guantanamo.

"They want to make me pay for what? The fact of having been kept prisoner in Guantanamo?" he said.

Nisar Sassi told French TV before the trial that he had gone to Afghanistan to "handle weapons" without any direct religious motive.

"It was a matter of being able to handle weapons as I wanted and as much as I wanted," he told La Chaine Info.

"As far as the religious aspect was concerned, that was just the backdrop. It was the game I had to play to achieve my goal."

His lawyer, William Bourdon, said his client had been "in the wrong place with the wrong people at the wrong time".

France rejects suspects' appeal
04 Aug 04 |  Europe

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