RABAT, Morocco - A Moroccan court convicted 29 people of planning terror attacks and supporting combatants in Iraq, the official MAP news agency said yesterday.
The criminal court in Sale, near Rabat, convicted 27 members of an alleged Islamic extremist group late Tuesday and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from two to eight years, MAP said. Two suspects were convicted in absentia and sentenced to a year in prison, it said.
The group, known as the Tetouan cell, after the northern Moroccan town where most of the defendants came from, was accused of having ideological, financial and logistical ties to several extremist organizations, including al-Qaeda.
The cell, which was rounded up by Moroccan police in January 2007, is one of at least a dozen accused in Morocco of providing money, combatants and support for militants fighting the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. Police charge the cells with also plotting attacks in Morocco.
MAP said the 29 convicted Tuesday night were found guilty of forming a criminal group with the goal of preparing and committing terrorist actions, recruiting Moroccans to fight in Iraq holding public gatherings without authorization.
The group's purported ringleader, Khaled Ould Ali Tahar, was the only defendant sentenced to eight years, MAP said.
This North African nation is viewed in the West as a pillar of Muslim moderation, but it has seen a rise of political and extremist Islam in recent years. Hundreds of suspected militants are behind bars.