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SLUG: 2-323566 France / Afghan Trial (L-only)
TITLE=FRANCE / AFGHAN TRIAL (L-ONLY)
HEADLINE: Seven Alleged Terrorists Go on Trial in Paris
INTRO: Seven men went on trial in Paris today (Tuesday) for allegedly providing logistical support to the killers of Afghan commander Ahmed Shah Massoud in September 2001. From Paris, Lisa Bryant reports the trial is the result of a four-year investigation into the possible European links to Mr. Massoud's assassination.
TEXT: Many of the defendants covered their faces with their jackets as they arrived at a Paris courthouse Tuesday. All seven are alleged Islamist militants, mostly of North African origin. Four are accused of planning Mr. Massoud's assassination from Europe.
The Afghan resistance commander first gained fame for his fight against the Soviets, but when they left Afghanistan he fought against the Taleban. He was killed on September 9th, 2001 -- two days before the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. The Taleban were allies of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
The three other men on trial are accused of providing logistical support -- such as false passports and other documents -- to the two Tunisians who allegedly assassinated Mr. Massoud. To get close to the Afghan leader, the Tunisians falsely identified themselves as journalists and requested an interview with him.
The pair carried falsified Belgian passports and a letter of introduction from a London-based Islamist group, the Islamic Observation Center. Mr. Massoud died after one of the Tunisians detonated an explosive during the bogus interview. Both of the alleged assasins were killed.
Several of the defendants are also accused of participating in training groups that prepared to wage a holy war overseas against U.S. and other Western interests. The trial comes after a lengthy inquiry led by a top French counter-terrorist magistrate, Jean-Louis Bruguiere.
One of the lawyers for the defendants, Philippe Van Der Meulen, spoke briefly to Frances LCI television.
/// VAN DER MEULEN ACT, IN FRENCH, FADE UNDER ///
Mr. Van Der Meulen said it remained to be proven whether the alleged ring to provide false documents actually helped Mr. Massoud's reported assassins get to Afghanistan.
An eighth man was also supposed to go on trial Tuesday on more minor charges of residing illegally in France. His case will be heard in late June. A verdict on the other men is expected on May 17. (SIGNED)
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