BELGIUM

Belgian court jails Islamist leader on terrorism charges

Dirk Waem, BELGA/ AFP file picture| The defendant, Fouad Belkacem, on November 30, 2012, before the start of the trial

A Belgian court on Wednesday sentenced the head of Islamist group Sharia4Belgium to 12 years in prison, ruling that his group was a terrorist organisation after it recruited youngsters to fight jihad in Syria.

Advertising

The sentence in one of Belgium’s largest terror trials comes as the country remains on high alert after authorities uncovered a plot last month to kill police nationwide.

Prosecutors had filed terrorism charges against 46 members of the group in total but only nine were present for the five-month trial, with the rest believed to be in Syria.

While the group’s 32-year-old leader, Fouad Belkacem, did not fight in Syria, judge Luc Potargent said he was the driving force in the organisation.

"Belkacem is responsible for the radicalisation of young men to prepare them for Salafist combat, which has at its core no place for democratic values," the judge said.

"Sharia4Belgium recruited these young men for armed combat and organised their departure for Syria," he said.

Prosecutors had asked that Belkacem be sentenced to 15 years.

Belgium is the European country that has produced the most jihadist fighters relative to its population size.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, REUTERS)

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning