The “Charlie Hebdo” trial begins in Paris

The trial of satirical weekly “Charlie Hebdo” began Wednesday, February 7. The paper was sued by several Muslim organizations for having published the infamous Danish caricatures of the prophet Mohammed in February 2006. According to the plaintiffs, the paper committed “a deliberate act of aggression intended to insult Muslims”. The suit was brought against two of Charlie Hebdo’s twelve cartoonists. The defense attorneys have called Francois Bayrou and Francois Hollande as witnesses.

Justice For The Mosque Arsonists

They set fire to two places of worship in Annecy in 2004: four young extremists are judged during a week of trials, a first for this type of affair. The trial court at Haute-Savoi is as of this morning trying two veterans, a supporter of PSG, and a chauffeur. They are accused of having burned two mosques on the 5th of March, 2004. They wanted to “affirm a reaction to Muslim expansionism”. This is the first time that a trial court has brought a judgment of “grave degratations, for reasons of religion, leading to personal danger”. {(continued below in French)} La cour d’assises de la Haute-Savoie juge _ partir de ce matin deux anciens militaires, un supporter du PSG, et un chauffeur-livreur. Ils sont accus_s d’avoir incendi_ deux mosqu_es, le 5 mars 2004. Ils voulaient _affirmer une r_action _ l’expansionnisme musulman_. C’est la premi_re fois qu’une cour d’assises est amen_e _ juger des _d_gradations graves du bien d’autrui _ raison de la religion par un moyen dangereux pour les personnes_. Selon une de leurs amies, les quatre hommes _baignaient dans une ambiance raciste_. Ils ressassaient les faits divers impliquant des jeunes d’origine arabe, _num_raient les aides sociales dont b_n_ficiaient les familles. Nicolas Paz (26 ans), videur, appartenait depuis longtemps au mouvement hooligan du PSG. Michel Gu_gan (23 ans), ancien militaire au 27e bataillon de chasseurs alpins d’Annecy, collectionnait les symboles nazis et les photos de tombes juives profan_es. Anthony Savino (21 ans), caporal dans le m_me bataillon, s’est d_fendu d’_tre d’extr_me droite, mais recevait en prison les revues du Front national. Enfin, Damien Gallaud, ancien videur, (23 ans), se serait laiss_ entra_ner par camaraderie. Apr_s avoir pens_ tagger des b_timents ou incendier des kebabs pour s’en prendre _ la communaut_ musulmane, ils auraient arr_t_ leur choix sur l’incendie de deux mosqu_es, un vendredi, jour de la grande pri_re, _ Annecy et ses environs. Quatre _ cinq r_unions ont eu lieu. Puis le caporal a achet_, jeudi 4 mars, deux bidons de p_trole pour po_le, une bouteille d’alcool, un pied-de-biche et une bombe de peinture. Le lendemain soir, ils se sont habill_s de sombre, ont bu quelques verres pour se donner du coeur _ l’ouvrage. Puis se sont s_par_s en deux _quipes, afin d’incendier simultan_ment la mosqu_e kurde de Seynod et celle maghr_bine d’Annecy. Croix celtique. Une serveuse d’un caf_ se souvient des quatre hommes et leur _air de conspirateurs_, juste avant de passer _ l’action. A 2 heures, ils se s_parent. Nicolas Paz, le hooligan, prend sa propre voiture, sans changer les plaques, pour rejoindre la mosqu_e de Seynod. Il se gare tout pr_s et une passante remarque les deux hommes aux cheveux courts dans cette auto aux feux _teints. Paz sort, d_fonce au pied-de-biche la porte du lieu de culte, d_verse au sol le p_trole, et jette une allumette. Damien Gallaud trace en h_te une croix celtique _ c_t_ de la porte, pour signer leur geste, _montrer, dira Paz, que c’_tait l’action de jeunes nationalistes, qu’on ne (les) identifie pas _ des nazis_. La mosqu_e, fra_chement r_nov_e, br_le enti_rement, les d_g_ts s’_l_veront _ 100 000 euros. Paz envoie alors un SMS _ la deuxi_me _quipe : _C’est bon pour vous ?_ A ce moment-l_, le caporal fait le guet, juch_ sur un toit. Ils ont pris un peu de retard. En bas, Michel Gu_gan, cisaille calmement le grillage d’une fen_tre de la chaufferie avec une pince coupante. Soudain, un homme d_tale. Un sans-domicile fixe qui dormait derri_re la mosqu_e, emmitoufl_ sous des tapis de pri_re remis_s l_. Les nazillons partent tr_s vite, sans avoir eu le temps de mettre le feu. Code barre. Les quatre se rejoignent dans une bo_te de nuit, puis Savino et Gu_gan d_cident d’aller terminer le travail _ la mosqu_e d’Annecy vers 5 h 30. Le premier attend dans la voiture, le second vide son bidon de p_trole par une vitre cass_e de la chaufferie. Mais en frottant contre le grillage cisaill_, un morceau d’_tiquette du bidon se d_tache et reste sur le rebord de la fen_tre. Les enqu_teurs retrouveront un bout de code barre avec 8 chiffres sur 13, qui leur sera utile plus tard. Gu_gan ne s’en rend pas compte. Il jette un journal enflamm_, et file. Ayant d_plac_ la voiture, Savino erre un moment dans le quartier, appelle son copain plusieurs fois. Puis envoie alors un texto aux autres : _Mission accomplie._ La chaudi_re _ gaz n’explose pas, ce qui limitera les d_g_ts _ 17 000 euros. Les nazillons ont truff_ leurs exp_ditions d’indices. Toute la nuit, ils ont _chang_ de multiples coups de fils et textos _ c_t_ des deux mosqu_es. Nicolas Paz s’est en outre vant_ de ses exploits, les racontant en direct, par SMS, _ deux de ses ma_tresses et _ un autre caporal des chasseurs alpins, qui avait refus_ de les accompagner. Ces trois personnes se retrouvent du coup devant la cour d’assises, pour non-d_nonciation de crime. Malgr_ leurs maladresses, les jeunes fachos _chappent durant onze mois aux enqu_teurs. En novembre 2004, un habitant du centre d’Annecy appelle la police. Des chants nazis s’_chappent d’un studio situ_ en rez-de-chauss_e, pr_s de chez lui, _ c_t_ du lac d’Annecy. Michel Gu_gan est identifi_. Les enqu_teurs _pluchent ses appels de la nuit du 4 au 5 mars 2004. Ils arr_tent toute la bande le 8 f_vrier 2005. Seul Anthony Savino nie un peu au d_part. Mais il a achet_ les produits par carte Bleue. Et le code barre retrouv_ correspond bien _ un bidon de p_trole achet_ ce jour-l_. Nicolas Paz revendique ses actes. Il fustige l’islam, _religion de fanatiques et de barbares_. Mais _crira plus tard _ Nicolas Sarkozy, pour s’excuser, et proposer des informations sur les milieux d’extr_me droite. Outre les hooligans du PSG, il a fr_quent_ une obscure _L_gion Athena_, groupe qui organisait des incendies et ratonnades. Abandons. La justice a choisi de consacrer une semaine _ ce proc_s, ce qui permettra d’approfondir le parcours de ces pieds nickel_s. Les expertises psychiatriques dressent le portrait de jeunes gens tentant de r_soudre dans le nationalisme de s_rieux probl_mes identitaires. Tous souffriraient de v_cus abandonniques. La m_re du caporal s’est suicid_e quand il avait 5 ans. Celle de Paz _tait d_pressive et suicidaire, ce qui fait qu’il a _t_ _lev_ par ses grands-parents, racistes. Le p_re de Gallaud a disparu apr_s un divorce. Et Gu_gan, l’ex-militaire, a _t_ abandonn_ _ la naissance. A 12 ans, il dessinait des croix gamm_es. Adulte, il faisait le salut nazi en entrant dans les kebabs. Il s’_tait invent_ une m_re _remari_e avec un Arabe_. Et un p_re id_al, officier de la Luftwaffe durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

No to Headscarf, Yes to Nun’s Habit

The judgement that allowed the Muslim teacher to wear her headscarf in school in a showcase trial is about to be challenged again. Helmut Rau (CDU), Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport for Baden-W_rttemberg, announced that he will file an appeal against the recent judgement in favour of Doris G. by the Stuttgart Administrative Court. “A nun’s habit”, argues Rau, “is her working clothes, and moreover a permissible expression of Western Christian culture.”

On the eve of the trial regarding the caricatures of the Prophet, the French Muslim Council voices disapproval

In a recent communication, the French Muslim Council (CFCM), whose charge is to address only questions linked expressly to religious practice, seemed to refuse the French political parties the right to criticize or even to address the question of French Islam with regards to the presidential election.

Terrorists in Europe find a base in Belgium

BRUSSELS On a damp, gray day in March 2004, the Dutch traffic police stopped a Belgian driver for a broken headlight and accidentally stumbled onto a major investigation of Islamic radicals. The driver was Khalid Bouloudo, a sometime baker and former Ford autoworker born in Belgium. During a routine check, his name turned up on an Interpol watch list, for an international arrest warrant from Morocco charging him with links to a terrorist organization based in Morocco and involvement in suicide bombings in Casablanca in 2003. The arrest set in motion a cascade of events that underscored the extent of the radicalization of young Muslims across Europe – and a rapidly expanding and homegrown terrorist threat. The case suggests a loose arrangement of terrorist sympathizers around Europe who officials say have provided support to terrorist operations in a number of countries. This has presented even small countries like Belgium with difficult law enforcement problems, forcing them to employ new investigative methods and pass tougher laws. For more than a year, Belgian counterterrorism police officers had been gathering information about Bouloudo and his contacts in an investigation code-named Operation Asparagus, after the plump white asparagus grown in the eastern border area where they lived. His arrest abruptly cut short the operation. Fearing that Bouloudo’s contacts would go underground or flee, counterterrorism forces immediately carried out a series of raids throughout Belgium, dismantling over the next few months what they believed was a sophisticated network that supported the bombings in Casablanca and in Madrid in 2004 and that is also suspected of trying to recruit fighters for the insurgency in Iraq. In November, the case of the Asparagus 18, as the suspects might be called, goes to trial in Brussels. For the first time, Belgian prosecutors will be using an antiterrorism law that came into effect at the end of 2003 that specifically criminalizes a terrorist act and association with terrorists and imposes a prison sentence of up to 20 years. None of the 18 men indicted – most of them born in Morocco or of Moroccan descent and from 24 to 42 years old – have been charged with committing or even plotting a specific terrorist act in Belgium. Instead, the trial will highlight how over the past decade Belgium has become a support center for terrorists in Europe, offering safe haven, false documents and financing. Prosecutors hope to prove that the group provided material support, including lodging and false papers, to the bombers who killed 191 in Madrid last year. Among the other charges are the fabrication and the use of false documents, illegal entry and residence in Belgium, possession of illegal weapons and criminal association with a terrorist enterprise, in this case the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, or GICM, a loose-knit organization founded by Moroccans, many of whom were trained in Afghanistan before the Taliban were overthrown. Bouloudo is also believed to have trained there. “The case is a prototype of the new post-Afghanistan network – a little bit of everything: native-born radicals, immigrants from Morocco, travel to places like Saudi Arabia, connection to operations like Madrid,” said Glenn Audenaert, the director of Belgium’s federal police force. “It’s like handling a number of particles of mercury, toxic in themselves and even more toxic when they come together.” Despite a well-integrated Moroccan immigrant population that has lived and worked in Belgium for more than half a century, the country has become the destination of choice for many French-speaking immigrants who are put off by France’s intrusive security and intelligence services and tougher laws. It was in Belgium, for example, that the two Tunisian killers of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Afghan resistance leader who was assassinated in September 2001, received logistical support. Disguised as journalists, they carried Belgian passports and had traveled to Afghanistan from Belgium. Even defense lawyers involved in the Asparagus 18 trial acknowledge the attractiveness of Belgium as a support center for international criminal and even terrorist activity. “Belgium has become a logistical base for these people,” said Didier de Quevy, a lawyer who has been involved in terrorist cases in the past and is representing one of the defendants. “They have come here because the penalties have been light.” Indeed, Belgium’s terrorism-fighting tools are limited, even though Brussels, as the headquarters of both the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is the closest Europe comes to having a Continental capital. It has no equivalent of a CIA and only a few intelligence officers working abroad. Only 50 police officers, detectives and special agents are assigned nationwide to monitor the Muslim population for potential terrorist plots. Investigators complain that suspects in Belgium can be held for only 24 hours – compared with up to four days in France – under the vague charge of suspicion of association with criminals. And the hurdles to use intrusive investigative methods, like wiretaps, to obtain evidence in terrorist-related cases are more onerous than in many other European countries. The signal that Belgian antiterrorism laws needed strengthening came in 2003, after the trial of Nizar Trabelsi, a Tunisian former pro soccer player and cocaine addict, for a plot to drive a car bomb into an American air base in northeastern Belgium. Despite a confession and material evidence, prosecutors were forced to think creatively to win the maximum sentence – 10 years in prison – using, among other laws, one from 1934 that banned all private militias. If the new law had been in effect, investigators said, Trabelsi’s sentence could have been doubled. In the Asparagus 18 case, prosecutors will be relying on information gathered from foreign governments and foreign intelligence sources, a practice that defense lawyers have vowed to challenge. Wiretaps and surveillance tapes will also be introduced as evidence, which has been unusual in the past. Their admissibility will be tested under the new law for the first time. Particularly distressing for Belgian investigators is that four of those standing trial were born and reared in Maaseik, a picturesque 13th-century Flemish town of 24,000 on Belgium’s eastern border with the Netherlands, where they were also arrested. A small Moroccan population has lived in the town since the 1950s, when the region needed low-cost workers for the coal mines, now defunct. Maaseik has no slums. Even the poorest part of town, branded “Little Chicago” by some of the Flemish inhabitants, has clean streets and flower boxes in the windows. The first visible sign of Islamic radicalization came in the past few years, when a handful of Muslim women began appearing in public with their faces veiled in black. “I started receiving phone calls from the people of the city,” recalled Maaseik’s mayor, Jan Creemers. “‘There is something bizarre happening here, we see strange veiled women,’ they said. Mainly old ladies calling me, terrified, saying they were sitting on a bench, and when they turned around they all of a sudden saw these strange figures appearing all in black. They almost had heart attacks.” The city imposed a fine of $150 on any woman who refused to reveal her face, saying it was a security issue. The only woman in town who refused was the wife of Bouloudo. Bouloudo provides an interesting portrait of the new, homegrown militant. According to Creemers and a friend of Bouloudo, he grew up in public housing and went to a Catholic elementary school, where he attended a monthly Mass and optional catechism classes. The friend, a Belgian who declined to be identified for fear of reprisals, said that as teenagers, they went to Mallorca, Spain, and a casino in the Netherlands together. There are photos of Bouloudo partying and drinking alcohol, habits that he hid from his parents. “Bouloudo spoke very good Dutch, was very well dressed and very integrated,” Creemers said. “He was part of the city. I don’t understand wha
t the trigger was. It’s a mystery to me. The Moroccans here are not poor people; they are not isolated.” But for Bouloudo’s sister, Samira el-Haski, who is married to one of the other defendants in the case, there has been alienation, not acceptance, by the town. “No matter what,” she said, “we Moroccans have always been dirty aliens for them.” As in the case of many other young men in Europe suspected of terrorism, family members seem ignorant of their activities. According to Haski, her brother and husband are innocent. “My brother? My husband? Terrorists? This is crazy. This is just plain stupid,” she said. “They wouldn’t hurt a fly. GICM? We didn’t even know what it was.” Elaine Sciolino and H_l_ne Fouquet

Anti-Muslim Writer, Pope Meet In Secret

By John Hooper in Rome Oriana Fallaci, the controversial Italian journalist and author who is awaiting trial on charges of vilifying Islam, has been granted a secret audience with Pope Benedict. Fallaci’s diatribes against Muslims’ persuasions have turned her into a hate figure for the Italian left and a heroine for the anti-immigrant right. The Pope’s decision to grant her the privilege of a private meeting came after he appeared to reach out to Muslims on his first trip abroad as pontiff. Benedict’s discussions with Fallaci are bound to fuel concern among liberal Catholics, already dismayed by discussions on Monday between the Pope and leaders of an ultra-conservative group of breakaway Catholics. The Society of St Pius X, whose founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, was excommunicated in 1988, rejects many of the progressive initiatives taken by the Second Vatican Council. One of the society’s main objections is that the council opened a dialogue with other religions. Vatican sources were embarrassed by disclosure of the meeting with Fallaci. The Italian news agency APcom reported that the Pope had received Fallaci on Saturday at his summer residence near Rome. No announcement was made before or after their encounter and not even Fallaci’s family was aware that the writer, who lives in the US, had been in Italy. The newspaper La Repubblica said the writer, who is being treated for cancer, had driven herself to and from Castelgandolfo. Vatican sources said the audience had been brief and had been held at her request. Fallaci repeatedly berated the Pope’s predecessor for pursuing talks with Muslims. But she has been more positive about the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. However, after the London bombings, she said she had been astonished by his insistence on the need for dialogue. “Do you really think that they can change, mend their ways and give up planting bombs?” In June, a judge in the northern Italian city of Bergamo ordered that the 76-year-old Fallaci should stand trial next year on charges of slandering Islam in her book The Strength of Reason, one of three polemical works published since the September 11 attacks on the US. On his first visit to his native Germany since his election, the Pope last month made a point of meeting Muslim officials, addressing them as “my dear Muslim friends”.

U.S. Case Against Muslim Scholar Is Religious Attack: Defense

By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press Writer ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The government’s prosecution of a prominent Islamic scholar accused of recruiting for the Taliban in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks is an assault on religious freedom, a defense lawyer said Monday during the trial’s closing arguments. “The government wants you to think Islam is your enemy,” said Edward MacMahon, who represents Ali al-Timimi, 41, of Fairfax. “They want you to dislike him so much because of what he said that you’ll ignore the lack of evidence.” Prosecutors, on the other hand, said al-Timimi is on trial not because of unpopular political or religious views but because he specifically urged his followers to take up arms against U.S. troops just five days after the 9-11 attacks, and because several of them traveled half way around the world with just that intent. “When Tony Soprano says ‘Go whack that guy,’ it’s not protected speech,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg, drawing a comparison between al-Timimi and the fictional mob boss. Al-Timimi, a native-born U.S. citizen who has an international reputation in some Islamic circles, is facing a 10-count indictment that includes charges of soliciting others to levy war against the United States and attempting to aid the Taliban. The jury began deliberations Monday afternoon after hearing two weeks of testimony. If convicted, al-Timimi faces up to life in prison. The government contends that al-Timimi told his followers during a secret meeting on Sept. 16, 2001, that they were obliged as Muslims to defend the Taliban against a looming U.S. invasion. Just days after that meeting, four of those in attendance flew to Pakistan and joined a militant group called Lashkar-e-Taiba. Three of the four testified at al-Timimi’s trial that their goal had been to obtain military training at the Lashkar camp and then cross the border to Afghanistan and join the Taliban. It was al-Timimi who inspired them to do so, the men testified. None Of The Men Actually Made It To Afghanistan. Kromberg said at the trial’s outset that al-Timimi enjoyed “rock star” status among his followers. On Monday he said al-Timimi knew that the men at the Sept. 16 meeting–many of whom had played paintball games in 2000 and 2001 as a means to train for holy war around the globe–would do as he instructed them. “These guys couldn’t figure out how to tie their shoelaces without al-Timimi,” Kromberg said. But MacMahon said that al-Timimi merely counseled the men to leave the United States because it might be difficult to practice their religion in America in a post-Sept. 11 environment. The three men who testified against al-Timimi at trial, he said, are all lying because they struck plea bargains with the government and are hoping to get their sentences reduced in exchange for helping the government. MacMahon said it was two other men, Yong Ki Kwon and Randall Royer, who were the ones recruiting paintball members to join Lashkar-e-Taiba. Kwon, for instance, admitted that he and Royer had met a LET recruiter in the spring of 2001 on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Kwon also acknowledged that Royer had previously trained in Pakistan with Lashkar and that he had frequently encouraged others to join LET well before Sept. 11 and well before the government alleges al-Timimi’s criminal conduct. MacMahon pointed out to jurors that Kwon–one of the four who allegedly traveled to Pakistan at al-Timimi’s urging–had placed 25 phone calls to the other three in the three days before al-Timimi allegedly made his first exhortation on the Taliban’s behalf. The government’s case, MacMahon said, is built on a misperception that Islam is a sinister religion and its practitioners deserve strict scrutiny. “Are you appalled that the federal government is reading the Quran to you” at this trial? MacMahon asked the jurors. The prosecution of al-Timimi “is a fundamental assault on the liberties we all hold so dear. … If you don’t believe our freedoms are under attack by this prosecution, you haven’t been sitting here.” Kromberg disputed the notion that the government was casting aspersions on all Muslims. “Ali Timimi does not speak for all Muslims. Ali Timimi speaks for his sect of Salafi Muslims,” Kromberg said, referring to a sect of the religion often equated to Wahhabism, a puritanical form of Islam practiced by many of the leading clerics in Saudi Arabia, where al-Timimi once studied.

Muslim ‘Hate’ Preacher Loses Appeal

By Adam Blenford A Muslim preacher jailed for nine years after he urged his followers to rise up and kill the “enemies of Islam” lost an appeal against his conviction today, but had his sentence cut by two years. Jamaican-born Abdullah el-Faisal, 39, a former preacher at Brixton mosque in south London, encouraged his followers to kill Jews, Americans and non-believers in a series of inflammatory speeches and recordings. He told schoolboys that they would spend eternity in paradise with 72 virgins if they fought and died in a jihad, or holy war. El-Faisal was sentenced to seven years for soliciting murder and a further two years for inciting racial hatred at the Old Bailey last March. His sentences were to run concurrently. The judge recommended that el-Faisal, of Stratford, east London, be deported at the end of his sentence. The ground-breaking trial was the first prosecution of a Muslim cleric in this country.