BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) – A court sentenced a Lebanese man to 12 years in jail on Tuesday for last year’s failed attempt to bomb German trains and acquitted three other defendants, judicial officials and the defense lawyer said.
The four were charged with planting crude bombs on two trains at the Cologne station on July 31, 2006. The bombs, found later, failed to explode because of faulty detonators.
Jihad Hamad was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in jail at hard labor, the officials and defense lawyer Fawaz Zakariya said. Three other defendants, Khaled Khair-Eddin el-Hajdib, Ayman Hawa and Khalil al-Boubou, were acquitted by the Beirut Criminal Court. None of the men appeared during the rulings.
The court, headed by judge Helena Iskandar, also sentenced in absentia Youssef Mohammed el-Hajdib, who is being held and tried in Germany, to life in prison and hard labor, said Zakariya and the officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.
Both Hamad and el-Hajdib were originally sentenced to death but had the sentences commuted to their respective prison terms, Zakariya told The Associated Press. The lawyer said he would appeal the ruling within 15 days. Hamad had confessed to planting the bombs and said the aim was to protest cartoons that ridiculed Islam’s prophet Muhammad. He denied any links to al-Qaeda. The three others who were acquitted had denied involvement.
The prophet’s drawings, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper in Sept. 2005 and were republished in other European papers, sparked outrage, protests and violence across the Muslim world, where many consider images of the prophet to be a blasphemy.
Hamad’s father, Shahid, told AP Television News that the sentence against his son is unfair. “He should have been acquitted because he has nothing to do with what happened,” said the father, carrying a picture of his son.
Meanwhile, el-Hajdib’s trial opened Tuesday in the German city of Duesseldorf. German prosecutors charged el-Hajdib in June with an unspecified number of counts of attempted murder and with attempting to set off consecutive explosions before fleeing the country.
Hamad is not on trial in Germany as prosecutors there have said it was impossible to charge him in absentia. “Your plan envisioned carrying out two synchronized bomb attacks and then relocating abroad,” said Prosecutor Horst Salzmann, reading from the indictment Tuesday.
Prosecutors have earlier said el-Hajdib and Hamad started planning the attacks after becoming incensed by caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
Salzmann said officials would examine what significance the verdict from Lebanon would have for the German case. A lawyer for el-Hajdib, Johannes Pausch, said his client was “not very surprised” by it.
Bernd Rosenkranz, another attorney for el-Hajdib, said his client would make a statement to the court but not address the charges.
The trial at a high-security courtroom of the Duesseldorf state court is scheduled to last at least until April 30.