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Militants jailed on terror charges

Militants jailed on terror charges

Author: Wendel Broere in Amsterdam
Publication: Herald Sun
Date: March 11, 2006
URL: http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,18424651%255E1702,00.html

A Dutch court has handed down sentences of up to 15 years to a group of nine Islamist militants it found guilty of belonging to a terrorist organisation, but acquitted four other suspects.

Prosecutors had demanded sentences of up to 20 years in a verdict seen as a test of tougher new anti-terrorism laws.

Similar trials for the charge of "membership of a criminal organisation with terrorist intent" have collapsed in the past. Introduced in 2004, the charge is intended to enable militants to be convicted before the attacks they plan are carried out.

"The group ... spread texts inciting violence and threatened terrorist crimes," presiding judge Allard de Boer said.

"Threatening to carry out terrorist crimes strikes public order in the heart ... He who sows hatred and preaches violence is laying the basis for crimes aimed at instilling fear in the population and to destroy the Dutch rule of law."

The men were arrested in raids after the murder in November 2004 of director Theo van Gogh, who angered Muslims with a film that suggested Islam condoned violence against women.

The court sentenced Jason Walters and Ismail Akhnikh to 15 and 13 years respectively on five counts of attempted murder for trying to kill police officers, wounded when the suspects hurled a hand grenade at them when they tried to arrest the men.

Nouriddin El Fatmi, who was arrested separately carrying a loaded machine pistol, received a five-year sentence for complicity in attempted murder and weapons charges.

The court said the three were part of a network of young men in their 20s, mainly of Moroccan origin, who were found guilty of spreading threatening texts, images and sound recordings.

Five other members of the group received sentences of one to two years' jail. Four men were acquitted. The court confirmed the acquittal of a 14th suspect announced earlier.

The judge said Mohammed Bouyeri, who is already serving a life sentence for killing Van Gogh, was the ringleader of the group. Bouyeri was also found guilty of belonging to a criminal terrorist group, but did not receive a new sentence.

Only Bouyeri, wearing a red chequered headscarf, and three other accused were in court for the verdict.

"This case is important in setting the framework for the months and years to come when it comes to continuing the fight against terrorism in other cases," said Dick Leurdijk, terrorism expert at the Clingendael Institute.

Several acquittals in trials of people suspected of planning attacks in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe have raised the question of how close a suspect must be to detonating a bomb before prosecutors can demonstrate guilt.

A Dutch court sentenced another man to three years jail in February for trying to recruit volunteers and planning a "violent jihad", the first conviction under the tighter laws.

The judge rejected defence lawyers' arguments that there was not enough evidence against their clients, who they said were being persecuted for being Muslims.

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