Exile charged over rebel leader's death

War on Terrorism: Courts
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The Independent Online

An Egyptian living in London appeared in court yesterday charged with conspiring to murder the leader of the main opposition to Afghanistan's Taliban regime.

Yasser al-Siri was accused of aiding the killers of Ahmed Shah Masood, the former leader of the Northern Alliance, who was blown up by suicide bombers two days before the 11 September attacks on America.

Mr al-Siri, 38, also faced four other charges in which he was accused of raising money for terrorism, trying to obtain support for a banned Islamic extremist group and inciting racial hatred.

He was charged at Belmarsh magistrates' court in south-east London under the Criminal Law Act that "on or before September 9 2001 ... you conspired with others unknown to murder Ahmed Shah Masood". He was alleged to have provided letters of accreditation for the two assassins who posed as television journalists to meet and kill Masood in Afghanistan.

Mr al-Siri, a publisher who was arrested at his flat in west London a week ago, was charged under the Public Order Act 1986 with publishing "threatening and abusive" material" which was "intended to stir up racial hatred". He is alleged to have published 3,000 copies of a book that called for Jews to be killed.

He faced one charge under the Terrorism Act 2000, which alleged that on or before 23 October 2001, he "invited support for a proscribed organisation, namely Al-Gamm'a Al- Islamiyya".

Another charge, also under the Terrorism Act 2000, alleged that on or before 23 October this year he "invited persons unknown to provide money intending it should be used or having reasonable cause to suspect it would be used for the purposes of terrorism".

The final charge, under Sections 17 and 22 of the Terrorism Act 2000, alleged that on or before 23 October 2001, he "became concerned in an arrangement as a result of which an unknown amount of money was to be made available, knowing or having reasonable cause to suspect that it would or might be used for terrorism".

Mr al-Siri listened intently to his interpreter when the five charges were put to him. He spoke only once, through an interpreter, to confirm his name.

A bail application was refused and he was remanded in custody to appear again at the Old Bailey on 7 November.

In a separate case, a British-based Algerian was accused at an extradition hearing of being part of an Italian terror cell. Bachir Aouni, 32, faces five charges of obtaining counterfeit Italian currency, false identity and travel documents and conspiring with others to use these for terrorism between 1 January 1995 and 1 January 1998.

The Italian government claimed Mr Aouni was linked to Algerian and Tunisian terrorist organisations. James Lewis, representing the Italian government, told Belmarsh magistrates' court the extradition request was part of an investigation into Islamic terrorist groups funded by Osama bin Laden operating in north Africa, Germany, France and Britain.

Mr Aouni has claimed he was involved in nothing more than a student group. He was remanded in custody until 16 November.