Belgian court jails militant recruiters for Syria
A Brussels court on Tuesday handed jail terms of up to seven years to 26 members of a group that is accused of recruiting fighters for Syria and had included one of the suicide bombers responsible for the 22 March attacks in the Belgian capital.
The trial, which was held in February, concerned suspected religious militants who left Belgium for Syria between 2012 and 2014. The accused were seen as participating in the activities of a “terrorist group” to varying degrees.
They received prison sentences from eight months to seven years, some which were suspended, the Belga news agency reported. The prosecution had sought jail sentences up to 15 years for some of the accused.
Convicted posthumously was Najim Laachraoui, one of the two suicide bombers who killed 16 people at Brussels airport on 22 March, while another 16 perished in an attack the same day on the city's metro.
Laachraoui, who had left for Syria in early 2013 to fight with the Islamic State (IS) group, was also suspected of being the bomb maker for the Paris attacks in November that left 130 dead.
Four of the total 30 accused were released, including Mohamed Ben Ajiba, an imam in Brussels.
At the opening of the trial on 15 February, the defendant considered by prosecutors as the main recruiter of militants in Belgium, Khalid Zerkani, had his case separated from the others. He is currently in custody and expected to appear in court on 18 May.