ROTTERDAM, Netherlands – Prosecutors demanded prison sentences of up to six years for four men believed to be linked to Al Qaeda and accused of plotting attacks against U.S. targets in Europe.
The demands came Wednesday at the conclusion of the three-day trial.
Two Algerians, a Frenchman and a Dutch national were accused of helping plan strikes against the American embassy in Paris and a military base in Belgium, where about 100 U.S. military personnel are stationed.
Prosecutors said they ran a cell out of Rotterdam under orders from Al Qaeda, providing stolen passports and credit cards to help plan the attacks. The defendants' lawyers said their clients were petty criminals but denied the terror charges.
The four charged were with conspiracy to commit murder and belonging to a criminal organization, charges that together carry a maximum sentence of 10 years and eight months.
Three of them were arrested in Rotterdam two days after the Sept. 11 attacks during a European-wide sweep of groups suspected of links to Al Qaeda.
Prosecutors sought the toughest sentence of six years for the cell's alleged ringleader, Jerome Courtailler, a Frenchman who converted to Islam.
Courtailler, 28, acknowledged that he knew Nizar Trabelsi, a Tunisian soccer player allegedly designated to be the suicide bomber in the Paris attack, but said it was a passing acquaintance based on a mutual interest in soccer.
Trabelsi, who was also arrested Sept. 13, is in jail in Belgium. He is said to have links with suspected Sept. 11 leader Mohammed Atta and Richard C. Reid, accused of trying to blow up a Paris-Miami flight with explosives in his sneakers.
Prosecutors recommended a sentence of five years for Algerian Abdelghani Rabia and four years for Amine Mezbar, an Alegerian who was extradited from Canada to the Netherlands in July.
Saaid Ibrahim, a Dutchman of Ethiopian origin, should be sentenced to 360 days, prosecutors said. Ibrahim allegedly played a minor role by renting a Rotterdam apartment for the others.
During raids of the apartment, prosecutors found stolen passports, credit cards, manuals on explosives and video tapes of Usama bin Laden appealing for a holy war.
There was only one witness called to the stand during the trial, the head of the Dutch Internal Security Service. Other testimony came through affidavits.