Morocco jails 'jihadists' for up to 20 years

AFP , Friday 30 May 2014

A Moroccan court specialising in state security cases handed prison sentences of up to 20 years to dozens of members of a jihadist cell accused of sending fighters abroad, official media reported Friday.

The court in Sale, Rabat's twin city, jailed the main suspect, Mustapha El Kadaoui, for 20 years and fined him nearly 50,000 euros ($70,000), the MAP news agency said.

Charges against him included "forming a criminal gang to prepare and commit terrorist acts," "financing terrorism" and "inciting others to commit terrorist crimes."

Another 25 suspects facing similar charges, as well as failing to denounce "terrorist acts", received sentences ranging from two to five years, with one person acquitted.

The cell, which was dismantled in November, was led by a Malian national and operated in several Moroccan cities, including Casablanca and Nador. It focused on "indoctrinating and recruiting young Moroccans receptive to Al-Qaeda ideas," the MAP reported.

By the time police broke up the cell, the interior ministry said it had already sent "20 Moroccan volunteers" to fight alongside Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its offshoot the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO).

Morocco says it has busted scores of jihadist cells, and jailed hundreds of hardline Islamists, since a wave of suicide bombings in Casablanca in May 2003 killed 33 people.

During the past year, concerns have grown about the number of Moroccan Islamists going to fight in Syria alongside rebels seeking to topple the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

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