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French Court Sentences Islamists for Plot to Attack US Embassy


A French court has sentenced six men to prison for plotting to blow up the U.S. embassy in Paris. At least two of the men will likely appeal the verdict.

The six men were all convicted of being part of a terrorist enterprise, a charge that carries up to 10 years in prison in France. That was the sentence handed down to 39-year-old Djamel Beghal, for his role in a plan to attack the U.S. embassy in Paris.

The five other men on trial received sentences ranging from one to nine years in prison. They included Kamel Daoudi, 30, a former computer technician, who received the nine-year sentence. Both Daoudi and Beghal are of Algerian origin. Both men previously trained in al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan.

French prosecutors claim that it was in Afghanistan that a plot was hatched to target U.S. interests in France, with the help of a senior al-Qaida member, Abu Zubaydah. Beghal was arrested in Dubai in 2001, as he was returning to France from Afghanistan.

The prosecution charges are largely based on Beghal's confession to Dubai authorities about the plot. But during the trial, Beghal retracted those statements, saying they had been made under torture.

Lawyers for Beghal and Daoudi say they plan to appeal the verdict. They argue the court based its judgment on circumstantial and shaky evidence. One of Beghal's lawyers, Jean-Alain Michel, has called the verdict completely unjust, particularly since Beghal got the maximum sentence under law.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Michel said his client was not guilty. He was only guilty of having religious opinions as a devout Muslim, and of having relationships with a lot of different people, and of confessing to things he did not do under torture. None of these are crimes, Mr. Michel said.

The six men were arrested as part of a pan-European crackdown against suspected Islamic radicals, following the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. Anti-terrorist experts say a number of those arrested, including Daoudi and Beghal, had connections with radicals elsewhere in Europe.

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