An Albanian Muslim cleric has been put on trial in absentia in Tirana on terrorism charges for allegedly joining the extremist Islamic State group in Syria with his wife and two children.

Prosecutors say Almir Daci, 31, a former imam in an eastern Albanian village, left the country in 2013 with his family, and fought with the group.

His father, Xhevahir Daci, denied his son had joined the group, saying he left Albania to seek a job abroad.

The trial opened Wednesday.

Separately, another nine Albanian Muslims, including two preachers, are on trial accused of allegedly of recruiting more than 70 men to fight with rebels in Syria.

About two-thirds of Albania's 3.2 million inhabitants are Muslims. Mainstream religious leaders have asked believers not to join rebel groups in Syria.