- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 22, 2003

RABAT, Morocco, Feb. 22 (UPI) — Judicial sources said Saturday that a Moroccan court has convicted three Saudi nationals allegedly linked to al Qaida network with plotting terror attacks against U.S. and tourist targets in the country.

They said that Hilal Jaber al-Usairi, Zuhair Hilal Thabeti and Abdullah Muthaffar al-Ghumaidi were each handed down a 10-year prison sentence in a Friday night verdict hearing for planning to blow up U.S. military vessels in the Strait of Gibraltar and tourist targets in Marrakech south of Morocco.

The court also sentenced three Moroccan women to six months each in the same case. Two of them are the wives of two of the convicted Saudis.

The tribunal also sentenced a Moroccan man, Mohammad Naderi, to a year in prison, while it acquitted his brother, Hisham, on charges of lending one of the Saudi defendants a post office account to use for transferring money.

It also sentenced a policeman to four months for accepting a bribe from one of the Saudis to stamp his passport "illegally."

The punishment fell short of the prosecution's demands for life sentences to the Saudis and Moroccan women.

Meanwhile, human rights groups and Islamic movements cast doubts on the charges against the detainees, who were arrested in May.

They said the accusations were fabricated and not based on convincing evidence, but rather on "speculations," especially after the Justice Ministry changed the tribunal hearing the case.

During their trial, the Saudi defendants complained of being tortured, including one who claimed he was raped in detention.

Defense lawyer Mustafa al-Rameed described the verdict as "legally void."

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