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French court jails Moroccan in Sept 11-linked trial

Written by: Staff

PARIS, Oct 26 (Reuters) A French court today gave a nine year prison sentence to a Moroccan man accused of associating with hijackers involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks, an official at the Paris prosecutors office said.

Karim Mehdi was accused of ''associating with wrongdoers in connection with a terrorist undertaking'' -- a generic charge that in France covers a wide variety of criminal activity.

The prosecution suspected that at the time of his arrest he was planning an attack on a tourist complex in France's Indian Ocean territory, La Reunion.

Police believed Mehdi knew Ramzi bin al-Shaibah, alleged coordinator of the 2001 operation, and Ziad Jarrah, the hijacker who took over the controls of the plane which ultimately crashed in Pennsylvania, killing 40 passengers and crew.

Mehdi told the court that he had seen the pair, but only once, during a meeting with a friend. He denied knowing anything about their plans or having any ties to radical Islam.

He was arrested in June 2003 at a Paris airport after arriving on a plane from Germany en route to La Reunion.

The official at the Paris prosecutors office said Mehdi would have to serve at least two-thirds of the sentence and that he would be expelled from France once he had served his time.


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