10 years in prison for the Algerian Saber Lahmar

10 years in prison for the Algerian Saber Lahmar

This Guantanamo cleared “played an active role” in departures to Iraq and Syria, said the Paris Criminal Court.

The Algerian Saber Lahmar, a former Guantanamo detainee cleared, was sentenced Friday, June 17 in Paris to ten years in prison for having incited several candidates for jihad to leave for Iraq or Syria.

The 16th chamber of the Paris Criminal Court, which specializes in terrorism, considered that this man born in 1969 had, through sermons and conversations, “played an active rolein several departures with significant consequences, since a man has been presumed dead since the end of 2015. Born in Algeria, Saber Lahmar did a degree in Islamic sciences and, according to justice, became a member of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA).

He then left for a few years to complete his studies in Medina, Saudi Arabia, before appearing in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1996 and 2001, where he worked in particular in a large mosque in Sarajevo considered a gathering place for Islamists. The Bosnians handed him over to the Americans at the beginning of 2002 with five other Algerians, suspected of having fomented an attack against the United States Embassy.

He was transferred to the military prison of Guantanamo, on the island of Cuba, where he was detained until 2008 and suffered torture, before being cleared by American justice and being welcomed in France at the end of 2009.

religious guide

Quickly considered a “religious leaderby members of the local Muslim community in New Aquitaine, he officiates in a clandestine prayer room located above the restaurant in Bordeaux of Mohamed H., the other defendant, then regularly for Friday prayers in the mosque of Saint-André-de-Cubzac (Gironde).

The court held against him sermons and remarkswhere he justified the departure to Syria and Iraq“, established by recordings or testimonies of relatives, as well as conversations with people who left for the area, after their departure, where “he did not question” this one. The magistrates, who followed the requisitions of the national anti-terrorism prosecution (Pnat), also sentenced him to a two-thirds security period as well as a permanent ban from French territory.

“Special seriousness”

The 16th chamber justified its decision by the important “consequences caused“by the facts of a”particular gravitywith which he is charged: the departure of Othman Yekhlef, who probably died in the area at the end of 2015, as well as that of a couple and their five children. The father, Salim Machou, is one of the seven French people sentenced to death in 2019 by Iraqi justice for their membership of the Islamic State group. The children “lived in a war zone” and “have been detained since 2017 in a camp in Rojava“, lamented the court.

Throughout the hearing, Saber Lahmar consistently denied the charges. His lawyers, Me Christian Blazy and Alix de Villanove, have announced that they will appeal. “Under the pretext that he had a certain aura due to his Islamic culture, he is condemned without proof, for having facilitated the departure of a family to the Iraqi-Syrian zone when he objectively had no power to do so.“, they criticized.

“Total” ideological adherence

Mohamed H., co-defendant presented by the prosecution as the “second of sheikh Lahmarand born in Morocco in 1977, was on the other hand released, in spite of the requisitions of the Pnat of six years of imprisonment. The court held that his “total adherence to the ideology of the Islamic State organizationbetween the end of 2015 and mid-2017 was certainly established. But “adherence to an ideology propagated by a terrorist organization does not constitute participation in a terrorist criminal association“, underlined the president of the 16th chamber.

During the hearing, Mohamed H. had recognized for the first time his “radicalization“past, a”real journey of introspection“according to the 16th chamber, which also ruled that there was no evidence that he had had a role in propaganda or incitement to leave. “Justice did not content itself with hypotheses or suppositions and rendered a well-founded judgment with flawless motivation. My client will be able to resume the course of his life. It is a relief“, welcomed his lawyer, Me Noémie Saidi-Cottier.

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