French trial for 8 suspects in terror finance ring

Eight men went on trial in Paris for their alleged roles in financing Islamic terror operations.

Paris: Eight men went on trial in Paris for
their alleged roles in an armed gang accused of using
explosives and the threat of violence to finance Islamic terror operations.

Prosecutors say the gang set up a restaurant and a
cybercafe to try and hide their criminal activities an
"elaborate strategy to promote and finance the cause" of
terror, the indictment alleges.

The trial, set to continue until Jan. 28, takes place
five years after the suspects` arrest in an anti-terror sweep.
It is common in France for investigators to work on cases for
years before they go to trial.

Some of the suspects have acknowledged being members
of a criminal gang, but all have denied that their goal was to
finance terrorism, Le Figaro newspaper reported. Alleged
ringleader, Ouassini Cherifi has already spent time in prison
from 2000-2004 for trafficking phony passports to radical
groups.

All of the men a French-Algerian, four Tunisians, an
Algerian and two French citizens are charged with "criminal
association in relation with a terrorist enterprise," and some
are also accused of terror financing and illegal possession of
weapons.

The gang is accused of using explosives to blast a
hole in the wall of a warehouse of a money transport company
in Beauvais, north of Paris, in 2005 but the hole wasn`t big
enough for them to get inside, and they left empty-handed.

After the suspects were rounded up, police discovered
weapons and explosives in a storage space in the Paris
suburbs.

Some of the men are also accused in the theft of
official French identity documents in northern France.
Marie Guiraud, attorney for key defendant Cherifi, a
36-year-old French-Algerian, said yesterday her client has
denied all charges. Cherifi and three others remain behind
bars, while the rest have been freed pending trial. They risk
up to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors say that while behind bars in 2000 Cherifi
met Algerian-born Safe Bourada, who was serving eight years in
prison for his role as recruiter in a logistics group that
helped Islamic extremists stage deadly bombings in the Paris
subway and elsewhere in 1995.

Investigators suspect Bourada, while in prison,
recruited followers who became members of a France-based
terror cell known as "Ansar al-Fath," or Partisans of
Victory.

Bureau Report