A three-judge panel has sentenced several men and one woman involved in a terrorism support network in The Hague. A lawyer for one of the convicted said his client didn't know of the militant group's human rights record.
A Dutch court on Thursday sentenced eight men and one woman for providing support to the "Islamic State" militant group and recruiting youngsters to fight alongside the militants in Syria. Two of the men are believed to be in Syria, and were tried in absentia.
"The criminal organization aimed to incite and recruit 'brothers' to travel to fight in Syria and finance them to that end," Dutch judge Rene Elkerbout said during the hearing.
Elkerbout added that the network of radicals "contributed on a large scale to a climate in which youngsters felt called upon to go to Syria and fight."
Two men were handed six-year prison terms, while the rest of those in court on Thursday received between three and five years in jail. The judges were most lenient with the woman, who received a seven-day jail term.
The charges included "belonging to a terrorist organization," recruiting youngsters to join the "Islamic State," inciting others to commit acts of terrorism, and participating in military training in Syria.
Freedom of speech?
Meanwhile, Andre Seebregts, the defense lawyer of 33-year-old Azzedine Choukoud, said that he was likely to appeal the six-year jail term handed down to his client, a sentence seen as high according to Dutch standards of leniency and tolerance.
Seebregts added that his client supported the "Islamic State" militant group in its fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and that he didn't know of the group's human rights abuses until after he was arrested last year in a police crackdown on radical groups in The Hague.
"It is very difficult to explain how you would get such a high sentence if the Paris attacks were not taken into account somehow," said Seebregts, although the three-judge panel made no reference to the tragedy.
Prosecutor Wouter Bos described the verdict as a victory that established where freedom of expression ends and incitement to commit acts of terrorism begins.
"Freedom of expression is a great good, but there are limits," Bos said.
"When you actually incite people to commit serious crimes, when you invite people to join groups such as ISIS and al-Nusra, you cross a line and it is no longer freedom of expression," the prosecutor noted.
ls/jil (AFP, AP)