AMSTERDAM — A Rotterdam court has ordered the release of four terrorist suspects as the prosecutor demanded sentences ranging from six months to three years against all 12 men on trial.
The court released the four men on Monday because the sentences they faced were shorter or just as long as the time they had served in pre-trial detention, an NOS news report said. All 12 suspects were arrested in April and August last year.
The released men, identified as Kasim Al A., Moustafa B. en Khaled Al M., had sentences ranging from six months to 12 months demanded against them.
A fourth suspect, Zouhair T., faced a two-year jail term. But the court said there was no risk that T — who lives legally in the Netherlands — would flee the country and ordered his release, newspaper De Volkskrant reported.
The 12 suspects are accused of membership of a criminal organisation, which was allegedly involved in the illegal drugs trade, forgery of identification documents and organising the travel plans for volunteers to join jihad, the Islamic holy war.
The prosecution also alleged that various suspects were involved in recruiting jihad volunteers and that they offered their services to the al-Qaeda terror network and the now-defunct Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
In addition, the 12 were initially charged with an attempt to assist the enemy in times of armed conflict — a charge that has not been used since crimes related to World War II. But the prosecution admitted that it did not have enough evidence and withdrew the charge against most of the suspects last week.
Two suspects remain charged with assisting or attempting to assist the enemy and face a three-year jail term.
Dadi M. travelled to Iran in an alleged attempt to enter Afghanistan, but claims he was in Iran for the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
The second suspect, Rida A., tape-recorded a last will and testament and the prosecution alleges the recording is evidence he intended to volunteer for jihad. He is charged with attempting to assist the enemy in times of war, a Novum news report said.
But the trial has proven hard work for prosecutor Jo Valente, who admitted that the investigation proceeded with difficulty and that evidence against the suspects was thin in some places.
Doubts surrounded the case for several months because the prosecution carried out the arrests based only on information from the Dutch secret service, AIVD. The prosecution was also delivered a blow on the first day of the case on 12 May when the AIVD was ordered to maintain its secrecy to protect the security of the State.
The same Rotterdam court acquitted four other terrorist suspects in December, who had been arrested in the same manner. Due to the fact the AIVD did not reveal the source of its information, the evidence could not therefore be corroborated, prompting the Court to order the release of the suspects.
The judges also said there was insufficient evidence to warrant convictions on allegations that the four Muslims were involved in an al-Qaeda plot to bomb the US embassy in Paris.
Prosecutors and defence lawyers started presenting their final pleas on Tuesday in the trial of the 12 men and a ruling in the Netherlands’ latest terrorist trial is scheduled for 5 June.