Trial of al-Qa'ida suspects starts

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The Independent Online

Twenty-three suspected supporters of al-Qa'ida went on trial in Brussels yesterday accused of trying to bomb a US military base in Belgium or of being involved in the murder of an Afghan opposition leader in 2001.

The hearing, which is Europe's third terrorist trial since 11 September, 2001, had a chaotic start when one defendant attacked another and had to be dragged from the court.

The most prominent defendants are two Tunisians: Nizar Trabelsi, who has admitted some allegations, and Tarek Maaroufi, who denies having any links with terrorist groups.

Mr Trabelsi is expected to plead guilty to plotting an attack on the military base. He also is suspected of being involved in a plot to blow up the US embassy in Paris.

Mr Maaroufi is accused of involvement in the assassination in 2001 of Ahmed Shah Massood, an Afghan opposition leader during the Taliban reign. The trial is expected to last a month.

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