PARIS – A Paris court convicted 19 suspected Islamic militants on Friday for their roles in a network that channeled arms and false identity papers to insurgents in Algeria.
Five other defendants were acquitted during the two-month trial of alleged supporters of the Armed Islamic Group, a leading force in Algeria's 9-year-old insurgency. Punishments for those convicted ranged from eight-month suspended sentences to seven years in prison.
The group, believed to have been based in the southern French city of Marseille before it was dismantled in 1997, allegedly smuggled arms to Algeria by hiding them in cars.
Investigators believe members of the network belonged to the Takfir movement, a Sunni sect of Egyptian origin that preaches a radical form of Islam.
During pretrial interrogation, one defendant said Osama bin Laden had helped fund the network's activities, but such allegations never surfaced again during the trial.
All 24 defendants were charged with criminal association in relation to a terrorist enterprise. All denied belonging to the support network for the Armed Islamic Group. All but two remained free during the trial; four were tried in absentia and one has been detained in Italy.
Algeria's Islamic militants have been fighting the North African nation's military-backed government since 1992, and at least 130,000 people have been killed.