Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Albania Jails Nine Jihadi Recruiters

Nine Albanians were convicted of inciting terrorism and recruiting people to fight in Syria and sentenced to a total of 126 years in prison.

Gjergj Erebara BIRN Tiranë

The First Instance Court of Serious Crimes in Tirana found the nine men guilty on Tuesday evening of recruiting some 70 Albanians to fight in the conflict in Syria.

They were convicted of “inciting terrorism” and “recruiting people to carry out terrorist acts”.

Bujar Hysa, the alleged leader of the group, was sentenced to 18 years in prison, while Genci Balla and Gerti Pashja got 17 years each.

Three other defendants, Verdi Morava, Orion Reci and Edmond Balla were sentenced to 13 years, while Zeqir Imeri got 16 years and Fadil Muslimani 12 years.

But Reci’s lawyer Roland Islami said the verdict was an example of religious persecution and promised to appeal.

“This is discrimination from the beginning to the end of the process,” Islami said.

“This decision is shameful for Albania, the defendants have been convicted for what they believe,” he added.

Armand Ali, an imam at one of the mosques in Tirana that work outside of the control of the officially-sanctioned Muslim Community of Albania, also alleged religious discrimination.

“These [people] were convicted by the same judges that left Arben Frroku free,” he said, referring to a former politician who was found not guilty at the same court of murdering a police officer, but had the verdict overturned on appeals.

“This decision is aimed at silencing imams who are outside [prison] more than convicting those who are inside,” he added.

The nine defendants were arrested on March 2014 after Albania passed new laws to criminalise participation in foreign conflicts.

The authorities estimate that more than 100 Albanians, among them women and children, went to Syria from 2012-14.

About 18 Albanians are confirmed to have died while fighting.

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