Judges in Frankfurt issue sentences that range between 10 and 12 years for four Algerian defendants. But they rule out any link between the four and al Qaeda.
The Christmas market in Strasbourg: Prosecutors maintain it was to be the target of a terror attack in 2000.
After hearing testimony over the past 10 months, judges in Frankfurt's higher regional court reached two conclusions on Monday: The four Algerian defendants planned to bomb the Strasbourg Christmas market in 2000, not the city's synagogue, and they had nothing to do with the al Qaeda terror network or with the terrorists who carried out the attacks on the United States in 2001.
As a result of their findings, the judges convicted the four on charges of conspiracy to commit murder and carry out a bombing. They handed out sentences that ranged between 10 years and 12 years.
The chief judge, Karlheinz Zeiher, said the four planned to spread fear and death across France and Europe in an attempt to protest France's support of the Algerian government. "The defendants wanted to hit a nerve in Western civilization," Zeiher said.
Mounir el Motassadeq
It is the second German verdict related to international terrorism issued within the past month. On Feb. 20, a Hamburg court convicted the Moroccan Mounir el Motassadeq (photo) of supporting the Sept. 11 suicide hijackers in the United States and of being an accessory to the murder of 3,066 people. He was sentenced to the maximum of 15 years in prison.
German prosecutors also are planning to file charges against the Moroccan Abdelghani Mzoudi who is suspected of having helped the Islamic group behind the Sept. 11 attacks that was based in Germany.
The four defendants in Frankfurt, who range in age between 27 and 34, were arrested in December 2000 in the central German city by investigators who had received a tip from a foreign intelligence service. The investigators found weapons, a large supply of chemicals and detonators in the apartment. Investigators also found a video of the Strasbourg cathedral and the Christmas market held next to it.
Prosecutors maintained that the defendants underwent paramilitary training in Afghanistan. Zeiher said this training was a precondition for them to join a holy war against the western world. He also suggested that the order for the attack came from a London-based group led by Abu Doha.
Doha has been arrested in London on charges that he conspired with the Algerian Ahmed Ressam in a plot to blow up the Los Angeles International Airport in 1999. He is also suspected of coordinating terror acts around the world and recruiting scores of candidates for the al Qaeda camps.
During previous testimony, one of the four defendants told the court that he was sorry for planning the attack.
"I’m very happy that no blood was shed," Aeurobui Benali said.