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Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK
Dramatic opening to 'al-Qaeda' trial
Masked police officers transport an al-Qaeda suspect
Suspects were driven to court by masked police officers
There has been a dramatic opening to the trial in Frankfurt of five men suspected of links to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

One defendant was thrown out of court after shouting anti-Jewish slogans and using threatening language.

Prosecutors say there was a plot to bomb Strasbourg
The opening of the trial was delayed for two hours after a legal row over whether the men could be filmed in court. A camera was allowed to film the first five minutes.

Massive security precautions have been put in place for what is the most important terrorism trial since the 11 September attacks.

Four of the five, who are all of Algerian descent, are accused of plotting to bomb the Christmas market in the eastern French city of Strasbourg in December 2000.

The fifth man, Samir Karimou, is charged, along with the others, with "membership of a terrorist group".

Lamine Maroni, 31, was ejected from the courtroom after telling the court: "You're all Jews. I don't need them. I don't need the court. My god is my defender."

Federal prosecutors say the defendants have already entered pleas, but that these have not been disclosed for security reasons.

Trained in Afghanistan'

The prosecution alleges the five men trained in camps in Afghanistan from 1998.

The accused:
Lamine Moroni
Aeurobui Beandali
Salim Boukhari
Samir Karimou
Fouhad Sabour

Three of the accused were based in London before joining the others in Germany.

The country became a focus of investigation into al-Qaeda cells after it emerged that three of the hijackers involved in the 11 September attacks had studied in the northern city of Hamburg.

But no direct connection has been established between the defendants and the attacks on the United States.

The alleged plot was foiled after German police, acting on a tip-off from foreign intelligence, raided flats in Frankfurt.

Inside they discovered bomb-making equipment, weapons and an amateur video of the Strasbourg market on which a voice can be heard saying: "You're all going to go to hell, God willing."

Four of the suspects were arrested in December, 2000; Samir Karimou was detained the following April.

Defence lawyers say only one of the accused will answer the charges.

The trial is expected to last up to a year and the defendants could face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.

Tight security

Since 11 September, Germany has launched its biggest-ever post-war investigation to track down suspects with links to al-Qaeda.

German police stop a man outside the Frankfurt court
Security is tight around the court

Although a number of people have been arrested, no charges have been brought.

In Frankfurt, police began patrolling streets near the courthouse in a busy shopping district weeks ago.

Concrete blocks have been placed on the main street outside the courthouse to thwart any attack and extra surveillance cameras have been installed throughout the building.

"These are the highest security measures ever to be employed in Frankfurt," said court spokesman Wolfgang Frank.

See also:

15 Apr 02 | Americas
Tape 'shows 11 September hijacker'
18 Nov 01 | Europe
Terror suspects remanded in Spain
18 Dec 01 | South Asia
US names al-Qaeda 'most wanted'
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Who is Osama Bin Laden?
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