Spain opens the biggest trial of Al Qaeda suspects

After an eight-year investigation, Spanish prosecutors opened Europe's biggest trial of &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Al Qaeda suspects yesterday, in a case that includes three defendants accused of playing a supporting role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Spanish authorities imposed extra security for the trial, including a retrofitted courthouse designed especially for terrorism cases. Police helicopters and guards with machine guns patrolled the grounds. In the courtroom, all but one of the 24 defendants sat on benches inside a large bulletproof-glass cage that isolated them from their lawyers, prosecutors, and the three-judge panel hearing the case.

Prosecutors say the suspects were part of a cell of Al Qaeda followers based in Spain who raised money and recruited fighters for radical Islamic causes in Bosnia, &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Afghanistan, and Indonesia. Most face charges of financing terrorism and belonging to a terrorist organization, but three are specifically accused of assisting two of the ringleaders of the Sept. 11 attacks by organizing a rendezvous in a Spanish coastal town two months before the hijackings, reports the Boston Globe.

The prosecution is expected to accuse some of the key figures of using trips to Britain to smuggle money to al-Qaeda agents across Europe. Mr Yarkas, 41, is alleged to have visited Britain more than 20 times, often bringing young recruits to meet leading militants, including Abu Qatada, the London-based radical cleric.

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