Terror trial opens for 9 in Belgium

Suspects include 50-year-old women accused of recruiting jihadists for suicide bombings on Islamic Web site.

March 8, 2010 19:37
1 minute read.
Belgian terror suspect Malika El Aroud.

belgium terror suspect Malika El Aroud 311. (photo credit: AP)

BRUSSELS  — Nine people went on trial Monday on terrorism charges, including a 50-year-old woman accused of using an incendiary Islamic Web site to recruit jihadists for suicide bombing missions.

The nine were arrested in December 2008, after police intercepted an e-mail from one suspect they said suggested a suicide attack was imminent. Prosecutors have not said where the attack was to occur.

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The key suspect is Malika El Aroud, 50.

A Belgian national, she is charged with heading a terrorist group linked to al-Qaida and running a Web site that glorified suicide bombings and urged young Muslims to sacrifice themselves in the jihad, or holy war.

El Aroud denies heading a terror cell.

She was convicted in June 2007, in Switzerland for running a Web site propagating hardline Islamic ideals. She got a six-month suspended sentence and returned to Belgium, where she continued her Web site that was later shut down.

The trial opened amid extreme security measures at Brussels' central courthouse.

On December 21, 2008, Brussels police raided houses across the city, detaining 14 people on suspicion they had associated with Moez Garsalloui, 41, El Aroud's Tunisian husband, who is now believed to be in Pakistan or Afghanistan. He is on trial in absentia.

Among those on trial are Belgian Hicham Beyayo, 25, and several others with whom he allegedly spent time in Taliban training camps in Afghanistan in recent years.

Prosecutors said Beyayo returned to Brussels on December 4, 2008, and allege that four days later he sent an e-mail saying he has been ordered to carry out a terrorist attack.

His lawyer, Christophe Marchand, said his client invented that story to win back a former girlfriend.

For El Aroud, the trial marks the second time she has appeared before Belgian judge. In 2003, she was on trial with 10 others in Brussels in connection with the murder in Afghanistan of anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was killed in an al-Qaida suicide bombing two days before the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington.

El Aroud's first husband, Abdessatar Dahmane, died in that attack. She was acquitted.

The others on trial are Ali El Ghanouti, Yussuf Said Arissi, Hicham Bouhali, Jean Trefois, Abdullazziz Bastin and Mohammed Bastin. They are all Belgians.

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