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Italy Clears Three North Africans of Terrorism Charges

An appeals court in Italy threw out terrorism charges against three North Africans on Monday. One of the three, a Moroccan immigrant, was released from prison. His case was seen as a test for Italy's fight against Islamic militants.

Moroccan immigrant Mohammed Daki and two Tunisians were accused of sending militants to Iraq and planning attacks in Europe. But in a highly controversial ruling in January, a judge in Milan said they were guerrillas, not terrorists.

An appeals court Monday upheld that ruling. In addition, the court threw out a minor conviction against Mr. Daki for trading forged documents, acquitting him of all charges.

For Mr. Daki, who has spent the last year-and-a-half in prison, it was the end of a nightmare.

"I am happy," he said, "because I am innocent and I have never harmed anyone in my life."

Mr. Daki said he planned to stay in Italy, continue his studies and then find a job.

The two Tunisians also standing trial were acquitted of charges of international terrorism but sentenced to three years in prison for crimes related to illegal immigration.

New laws to combat international terrorism were introduced by Italy in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

Because of a lack of evidence, Italian prosecutors have found it hard to win convictions against suspects arrested on the international terrorism charge.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said at the weekend some 200 "international terrorists" had been arrested in Italy during his four years in office.

But only two have been found guilty of terrorist-related activity. The others were either released or acquitted of the charge after trial.