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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 1 April, 2003, 18:22 GMT 19:22 UK
Terror-link pair jailed
Court sketch
The men had denied funding terrorism
Two Algerians linked with al-Qaeda have been found guilty of plotting to raise money for terrorist activities.

Brahim Benmerzouga, 31, and Baghdad Meziane, 38, planned to make money, equipment and propaganda material available to Islamic extremists, Leicester Crown Court heard during the eight-week trial.

The two Algerians were also part of an international credit card fraud aimed at raising funds for terror organisations such as al-Qaeda.

Benmerzouga and Meziane, who were both jailed for 11 years on Tuesday, are the first people in the UK to be convicted of being linked to al-Qaeda.

Sentencing the men, Mr Justice Curtis said: "You have not directly taken life or seriously injured anyone.

"But the terrorists, in order to carry out their terrible killings and maimings, need money, false papers and military-style materials.

Search
Evidence was found at the men's homes

"You both provided terrorists with the vital support and ran a well-organised and secretive cell."

The two men, who were living in Leicester and worked together in a factory in Corby, used numerous false identities between them.

They were secretly part of an intricate network of terror cells across Europe which exchanged coded internet messages.

Suicide bombings

The jury of nine people convicted the pair after five days of deliberations following a multi-million pound trial and police operation.

Following the convictions, detective superintendent Martin Morrissey of Leicestershire Police, said he was pleased with the outcome.

Baghdad Meziane
Baghdad Meziane had denied raising money for terrorism
However, he said the original charges of the pair being members of al-Qaeda had to be dropped because of the wording of the Terrorism Act 2000 and that the act would need to be looked at for future cases.

Benmerzouga, of Prospect Hill, had amassed more than 60 films promoting suicide bombings and martyrdom, including 19 copies of a video of Osama bin Laden.

Meziane had a book entitled A Biography Of The Freedom Fighter Osama bin Laden, and material about the September 11 attacks was found on a computer at his home.

The pair collected the names and credit card details of almost 200 different bank accounts on computer discs and envelopes found littered around their homes and cars.

Training camps

The actual cards were sent to associates across Europe, allowing them fraudulently to amass more than 200,000 for terrorist causes.

A selection of military-style equipment, including a solar-powered battery, a "shopping list" of radio parts and a triple-band mobile phone were found in Benmerzouga's home.

All this equipment was suitable for use in the training camps of Afghanistan, the court was told.

Brahim Benmerzouga
Brahim Benmerzouga had 19 videos featuring Osama bin Laden

Meziane was the mastermind behind the distribution of false passports.

The two men had denied "entering into a funding arrangement for the purposes of terrorism".

Benmerzouga admitted one charge of conspiracy to defraud by manufacturing and/or using false bank cards and card details, as well as three charges of possessing false passports.

Meziane, who was seeking asylum in Britain, denied conspiracy to defraud, but was also found guilty by the jury.

He earlier pleaded guilty to possessing one false passport in the name of Cyril Jacob.




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"Britain's first al-Qaeda trial"



SEE ALSO:
Family life for terror pair
01 Apr 03  |  England
Algeria's 'export of terror'
26 Feb 03  |  Africa
Country profile: Algeria
03 Mar 03  |  Country profiles


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