Italy: Milan court upholds acquittals on international terrorism charge for North Africans

A panel of judges upheld the acquittals Monday of three North Africans, accused of recruiting suicide bombers for Iraq, on international terrorism charges, a defense attorney said. The Milan court also acquitted one of the three, Moroccan Mohamed Daki, of the lesser charges he had originally been convicted of, although it convicted two Tunisians of criminal association and ordered each to serve three years in prison, said Daki's attorney, Vainer Burani.

In January, Judge Clementina Forleo acquitted Daki and Tunisians Ali Ben Sassi Toumi and Bouyahia Maher of international terrorism charges, ruling their actions were those of guerillas, not terrorists. The ruling set off a firestorm in Italy. Forleo convicted them of lesser charges of assisting illegal immigration and dealing in fake documents.

Prosecutors appealed the ruling, as they can do in Italy. They asked that Daki be sentenced to six years and Toumi and Maher to 10 years under the international terrorism charge introduced in Italy after Sept. 11, 2001.

Defense lawyers sought to have the terrorism acquittals upheld. Burani also sought and obtained Daki's acquittal on the fake documents charge, the attorney said in a telephone interview. The court converted the original convictions of the Tunisians into criminal association with the aim of facilitating illegal immigration, and sentenced them to three years apiece.

Prosecutors have found it hard to win convictions against suspects arrested on the international terrorism charge; Many of the suspects have been released or acquitted of the charge after trial, the AP reports. After Forleo's ruling was issued, Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini expressed "anger and incredulity" over what he said was a "distortion of the reality before the entire world."


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