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Accused Terrorism Figures on Trial in France

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Lisa Bryant

Six men, accused of plotting to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Paris in 2001, went on trial in Paris Monday. French authorities suspect the alleged leaders had ties with other suspected Islamist extremists in Europe

French investigators believe the alleged ringleader in the embassy bombing plot is a 39-year-old French-Algerian man called Djamel Beghal. Beghal was arrested in Dubai in July 2001, as he was making his way from Afghanistan to Morocco, and eventually to Paris.

Beghal reportedly revealed the plot to attack U.S. interests in France to investigators in the United Arab Emirates. He allegedly received his marching orders from a top al-Quada lieutenant in Afghanistan called Abou Zoubeida. Zoubeida was arrested in Pakistan in March 2002.

After being extradited to France, Beghal later retracted his confession, saying he had spoken under pressure. If found guilty, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

Five other men are accused of helping Beghal, and face similar potential sentences. They include Kamel Daoudi, an Algerian living in France, who apparently also spent time in Afghan training camps run by al-Qaida.

Daoudi was arrested in Britain, shortly after the September 2001 attacks in the United States. He was also extradited to France.

The men are believed to have been part of a web of Islamists extremists in Europe. Following the attacks on the United States in 2001, European police staged a series of arrests of the suspected militants. A number are now in jail.

The Paris trial is expected to last until February 16. The defense is expected to argue that while the six men may have harbored Islamist convictions, they were not linked in a terrorist plot.

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