Maaseik network: Nine combattants, recruiters sentenced to 3 – 10 years in jail
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    Maaseik network: Nine combattants, recruiters sentenced to 3 – 10 years in jail

    Nine fighters and recruiters of the Maaseik network were sentenced on Friday to terms ranging from a three-year suspended sentence to 10 years in prison by the Brussels Correctional Court. Three suspects were acquitted while the case against a 13th defendant was dismissed.

    The investigation into the activities of the Maaseik network began when federal judicial police investigators looking into the Sharia4Belgium organization noted that a number of people around Fouad Belkacem were not unknown to them. These were people who had been suspected in the early 2000s of being members of the Groupe Islamique Combattant Marocain (GICM – Moroccan Combattant Islamic Group), the terrorist organization responsible for attacks in Casablanca in 2003 and Madrid in 2004.

    A more in-depth investigation showed that some of these suspects had also been actively involved with Maaseik in Limburg, according to the Office of the Federal Prosecutor.

    Two of the accused, Khalid B. and Mohamed Z., radicalized many young Muslims in the area and reportedly encouraged them to leave for Syria to fight alongside Islamic State. Fifteen persons, including two minors, did, in fact, leave for the war-torn country.

    Khalid B. and Mohamed Z. were sentenced on Friday to 10 years in prison, while a third person received an eight-year jail term. Five others were each sentenced to five years in jail while one person was given a three-year suspended sentence. Three were acquitted.

    The case against another suspect was thrown out because it was based partially on evidence from the Moroccan judiciary and there was a risk that some testimony may have been obtained through torture during the investigation in Morocco.

    The Court ordered the immediate detention of the eight suspects sentenced to prison terms.

    Andy Sanchez
    The Brussels Times