France: al-Qaeda cell convicted?

A Pakistani man and two Frenchmen of Pakistani origin, who were at first suspected of helping would-be shoe-bomber Richard Reid, were instead found guilty of links to the Jammu and Kashmir separatist group Lashkar-e-Taiba June 16. The Paris court sentenced the main defendant, Ghulam Rama, 67, a Pakistani who headed the Chemin Droit (Straight Path) humanitarian group in France, to five years in prison. Two men who apparently trained for insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir with Rama’s help, Hassan el-Cheguer and Hakim Mokhfi, both 31, were given four-year prison sentences. They were all charged with criminal association in connection with a terrorist enterprise, a sweeping charge widely used in terror cases in France that carries a maximum 10-year sentence.

The men were arrested in 2002, suspected of providing logistical support to Reid, a Briton serving a life sentence in the US for trying to detonate a shoe-bomb aboard a Paris-Miami flight in December 2001. However, the investigation did not bear out those suspicions, denied by Rama.

“This case could have been named the Reid case, but it is not the Reid case,” Prosecutor Sonya Djemni-Wagner said in court on May 26, two weeks after the trial started.

The court was able to show, however, that Rama served as a link in France to LeT, helping his co-defendants to go to training camps. (Rediff, June 17)

A French intelligence report read in court said that said Rama met several people thought to be close to al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and other known Islamic extremists. (AKI, June 16)

The convctions come days after the arrest of an alleged al-Qaeda cell in Spain.

Lashkar-e-Taiba and their ilk must be terrified that peace in about to break out in Kashmir right now. See our last post.

For more on the notorious shoe-bomber Richard Reid, see WW4 REPORT #43