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Monday, 3 February, 2003, 16:15 GMT
Palestinian jailed over al-Qaeda links
Palestinian Nabil Okal talks to a lawyer at an Israeli military court
Nabil Okal denied the charges against him
An Israeli military court has sentenced a Palestinian man to 27 years in prison for training in Afghanistan with Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

Is it believed to be the first time a Palestinian has been convicted of having links to the group.

Nabil Okal, 29, learned bomb-making at an al-Qaeda training camp in 1998, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said he was a member of the militant Islamic group Hamas.

"I'm innocent," Okal told reporters outside the military court at Erez crossing, between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

'Bomb plans'

Okal was arrested in June 2000 in the Gaza Strip on his way back to Afghanistan for more training, prosecutors said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said he had been preparing explosives, but had not actually carried out any attacks.

Okal sat quietly in the courtroom on Monday as the sentence was read aloud in Hebrew and translated to him in Arabic.

Military Prosecutor Captain Ronen Shor told reporters Okal did not join al-Qaeda but trained with the group with the intention of attacking Israelis.

In 2000, Okal met the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, and received money to travel to Afghanistan for more training, prosecutors said.

Okal was granted an Israeli permit to travel to Jordan, purportedly for medical treatment.

He was arrested trying to travel into Egypt from the Gaza Strip.

Hamas leaders have denied sending Palestinians to Afghanistan for weapons training.


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