DUESSELDORF, Germany – A court Wednesday convicted four Arab men of plotting to attack Jewish targets in Germany (search) and found three of them guilty of being members of a terrorist organization.
Mohamed Abu Dhess (search), Ashraf al-Dagma and Ismail Shalabi were given sentences ranging from six to eight years in prison for their roles in planning the attacks and for forming a terrorist cell of al-Tawhid in Germany.
A fourth man, Djamel Mustafa (search), was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in plotting the attacks and for supporting a terrorist organization.
Al-Tawhid (search) is a radical Palestinian network believed to be linked to al Qaeda and headed by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who also leads al Qaeda in Iraq.
All three had rejected the charges against them.
"I never planned attacks against Jewish, Israeli or any other targets in Germany," al-Dagma told the court last week.
When the judge read out the sentences Wednesday, the men protested loudly. Al-Dagma stormed out of the courtroom into the hallway and security guards excluded him from the rest of the proceedings.
Much of the prosecution's case against the four was built around testimony from Shadi Abdellah, who was arrested at the same time as the others in April 2002 and confessed to plotting to attack Jewish targets, saying the group discussed Berlin's Jewish Museum and a Jewish-owned club or bar in Duesseldorf.
Judge Ottmar Breidling was sharply critical of German immigration authorities, saying that Abdellah and Abu Dhess had been able to use false names and life histories to get permission to live in Germany and receive social assistance.
"Both al-Tawhid cases need not have happened if immigration law had been conscientiously applied," Breidling said.
Abdellah admitted being part of the al-Tawhid group, saying he befriended al-Zarqawi in 2000 while in Afghanistan to undergo al Qaeda paramilitary training. He also said he served as a bodyguard to Usama bin Laden.
Abdellah told authorities the Duesseldorf-based cell operated largely apart from its parent group and chose its own targets and arranged for its own explosives and weapons.
In exchange for his testimony at this and two other German terror trials, Abdellah was given a reduced sentence of four years and was released in November after serving about half his time. He was also put in Germany's witness protection program.