PARIS, (Reuters) – France expelled an Algerian imam convicted of involvement in a 2002 bomb plot in Paris and of helping to recruit fighters for Chechnya, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday.
Chellali ben Chellali, imam of a mosque in Venissieux, a suburb in the eastern city of Lyon, was originally detained in January, 2004 in connection with a suspected plot to attack Russian targets in Paris, possibly using chemical weapons. He was taken into custody on Tuesday evening and put aboard a flight to Algeria on Thursday, officials said.
Ben Chellali’s wife and two sons were also convicted of involvement in the plot, while a third son spent two years in Guantanamo Bay after being captured in Afghanistan in 2001.
The group also planned an attack on the Eiffel Tower, according to suspects interviewed by police.
Ben Chellali, who had spent 14 months in provisional custody between 2004 and 2005 was given an 18-month prison term, including six months in custody in June, but had appealed against the sentence. He had also appealed against the expulsion order.
“It’s a kidnapping. They’ve stopped the justice system doing its job,” his lawyer Beranger Tourne told Reuters.
Ben Chellali and other defendants in the original case were found guilty of “criminal association in relation with a terrorist enterprise”, a broad charge which covers numerous crimes.
The plot came to light in late 2002 when police raided a flat near Paris and found electronic parts used in detonators and chemicals that can be used in explosives.