Terror trial opens for 9 in Belgium

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

belgium terror suspect Malika El Aroud 311 (photo credit: AP)
belgium terror suspect Malika El Aroud 311
(photo credit: AP)
BRUSSELS  — Nine people went on trial Monday on terrorismcharges, including a 50-year-old woman accused of using an incendiaryIslamic Web site to recruit jihadists for suicide bombing missions.

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

The key suspect is Malika El Aroud, 50.

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

El Aroud denies heading a terror cell.

Shewas convicted in June 2007, in Switzerland for running a Web sitepropagating hardline Islamic ideals. She got a six-month suspendedsentence and returned to Belgium, where she continued her Web site thatwas later shut down.

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

OnDecember 21, 2008, Brussels police raided houses across the city, detaining14 people on suspicion they had associated with Moez Garsalloui, 41, ElAroud's Tunisian husband, who is now believed to be in Pakistan orAfghanistan. He is on trial in absentia.

Among those on trial areBelgian Hicham Beyayo, 25, and several others with whom he allegedlyspent time in Taliban training camps in Afghanistan in recent years.

Prosecutorssaid Beyayo returned to Brussels on December 4, 2008, and allege that fourdays later he sent an e-mail saying he has been ordered to carry out aterrorist attack.

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

ForEl Aroud, the trial marks the second time she has appeared beforeBelgian judge. In 2003, she was on trial with 10 others in Brussels inconnection with the murder in Afghanistan of anti-Taliban fighter AhmadShah Massoud, who was killed in an al-Qaida suicide bombing two daysbefore the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington.

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

Theothers on trial are Ali El Ghanouti, Yussuf Said Arissi, HichamBouhali, Jean Trefois, Abdullazziz Bastin and Mohammed Bastin. They areall Belgians.