Life sought for Algerian accused of Paris bombs

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PARIS, Oct 24 (Reuters) A French public prosecutor sought life imprisonment today for an Algerian on trial for helping finance attacks that killed eight people in a spate of bombing on the Paris rail network in 1995.

Advocate general Delphine Dewailly told the Paris Assizes Court that Rachid Ramda should serve a minimum of 22 years behind bars for his role in the three attacks, the worst bombings in mainland France since World War Two.

Dewailly told the special court of seven professional judges that Ramda was ''a vital cog in the Armed Islamic Group (GIA)'', referring to a militant Algerian group which claimed responsibility for the blasts that wounded around 200 people.

The GIA campaign was intended to punish French support for Algerian authorities who scrapped multi-party elections in 1992 that an Islamist party had been poised to win.

Ramda, 38, has denied involvement and said the bombers deserved the death penalty. Two men have already been convicted of carrying out the blasts.

Ramda is already serving a 10-year jail sentence imposed after a previous trial connected to the same events. His lawyers argued at the start of the trial that the case should be thrown out on those grounds.

Prosecutors say Ramda was an envoy of Djamel Zitouni, a leader of the GIA which claimed responsibility for the blasts via Al Ansar, an unofficial publication of the group that was run by Ramda in London.

During his first trial the prosecution said evidence seized at Ramda's London address, including documents relating to an Algerian radical group and a Western Union payment slip bearing his fingerprints, showed he sent 5,000 pounds to the Paris bombers.

Ramda told the Liberation newspaper ahead of the start of the current trial that he did not contest the fingerprints, only the interpretation put on their discovery.

Reuters AK VP0104

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